What does Staying Foolish have to do with Global Leadership? Plenty, it turns out. A leader who is willing the play the fool intentionally is the one who courageously challenges the status quo and makes it safe for others to follow. He or she skillfully breaks rules created from the past in a time when the future was more predictable. The Foolish Leader invites us to examine our unexamined assumptions. Knowing which rules to break and how to break them seem to be the difference between being foolish and being a fool, often a fine line!

These are some of the insights gleamed from the October 3, 2014 GLC conversation on Staying Foolish. By entering the conversation open-minded and curious we were left enriched and with a new sense of what is possible. People shared that when you are willing to be foolish you engage those around you and help them to return to their natural state of resourcefulness and creativity –  the very same qualities global organizations strive to develop in their people today.

On a couple table-conversations comparisons were made between Foolishness and the court Jester. In ancient times, the court Jester was the only one who could safely challenge the King. He illicits laughter at our commonly held assumptions and in the process provides a pathway to wisdom.

Many talked about learning from children and the benefit of being more playful at work. David Nevin led us through a playful exercise where we learned the benefits of design thinking, unbeknownst to us at the time, and how our assumptions left unexamined limits our creativity and emergence of new solutions. We discussed how seriousness often narrows our focus, which is sometimes needed, but not helpful when innovation is called for. Absurdity was discussed as the extreme form of foolishness.

People questioned why a difference exists between work and play why it takes so much courage to bring play to work. When asked about the “how question;” how we can incorporate play into work some of these ideas emerged:

  • schedule a “playful week,” where people are encouraged to do things differently
  • foster people’s natural state by encouraging an environment of fun
  • create a “playground” at work, a space where it is safe to play
  • look for patterns to disrupt in yourself
  • have intentional “nomikai’s”
  • insert elements of surprise at work
  • be selective about the people you bring into your organization, test their ability to play!

One group made a “foolish” analogy between foolishness and a hot air balloon! The hot air balloon is powered by the creative energy that propels us to float up into the air to see wider and broader perspectives not possible from the ground. The higher we go, the wider our perspective and the more we learn. We then need to come back to earth and put into practice the new acquired knowledge. The obvious “negative” sides of foolishness were also discussed.Harvest wall

GLC VI had a nice mixture of first time GLCer’s and veterans as well as Japanese and non-Japanese. The topic stimulated perhaps our most paradoxical and whimsical conversations.

As we shift from an outdated directive command and control approach to leadership towards collaborative frameworks, it is clear that today’s leaders need the capacity to hold and manage multiple paradoxes. They create the container for which smart foolishness is allowed and nurtured. Global Leaders need to be highly self-aware to know when it makes sense to be foolish without being a fool!

Please share your current thinking on the topic of Staying Foolish here on our community blog and we would love to hear your ideas for GLC VII!

Please take 2 1/2 minutes to share what theme would you like to discuss in GLCVII – Topic Ideas

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Join the Leadership Team!

Interested in practicing Foolishness in a diverse and supportive environment? If so, please join our leadership team, guided by these principles:

  • effortless effort
  • act from joy and
  • there’s nothing wrong
  • we are stronger when we think together

We support the development of leadership capacity by supporting their leadership commitments. All of us have benefited through our participation. The more we contribute the more we grow.

Common benefits include:

  • developing authentic relationships
  • listening to others
  • listening for what wants to emerge in a group
  • adapting to uncertainty, ambiguity, chaos and the unknown
  • allowing the emerging group process to unfold
  • comfort with discomfort
  • c0-creating the pathway as we move forward.

Join our team and work with us to catalyze connections!