The Strategist

Emptiness and ignorance: unexpected helpers to leaders

01/16/2018 - 13:54

We are used to be proud of our knowledge, skills and experience – those are qualities with which we diligently fill ourselves during all our life. No one writes in his CV: "I will bring ignorance to the team", "I have an empty mindset", "I prefer to listen to pauses". Companies do not say: "We are proud of our holes in customer service." Emptiness and ignorance are what we avoid.

But what if these unpleasant features have hidden powerful resources for development of your business? Itay Talgam, the author of the book The Ingnorant Maestro, claims that this is so. And teaches to use emptiness for good.

Orchestrate business

Itay Talgam is a famous conductor, a pupil of the great maestro Bernstein. He became the first Israeli conductor to work with the symphony orchestra of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic. And he also is the first conductor, who managed to transfer the principles of management of the musical collective in the sphere of business.

Talgam used conducting experience to advise politicians, entrepreneurs, scientists, officials, doctors. What made it possible to apply the solutions of musicians in areas far from music? Ability to turn emptiness into a source of energy and new discoveries.

Recognize emptiness

Emptiness is around us. When we wait for one, we get another. When we do not know what to do. When our actions do not bring the desired result. Emptiness arise in business because of the lack of instructions, misunderstandings between colleagues, different interpretations of essencial processes.

We are accustomed to perceive emptiness as something negative. We subconsciously associate it with a danger, an uncomfortable situation, and a hindrance on the way to the goal. A gap in business is always a problem, a "bug", a mistake. Therefore, we try to take emptiness away as soon as possible or pretend that it does not exist. And we are sinking in routine. We buy things that we don’t need. We introduce senseless standards of behavior. We hang labels on incomprehensible. We write instructions.

Yet, if you notice the emptiness, recognize its presence and its right to exist, and then reflect on why it arose, opportunities for development, discovery and innovation will open. Emptiness is the door on which a new idea is knocking.

The secret is that voids can be given any meaning. That is why they have so many opportunities, such as freedom of choice and boundless prospects. In the hands of a talented leader, emptiness will not only allow unexpected results to be achieved in the future, but it will also unite the team, and will not let you be torn apart by numerous interests and contradictory circumstances.

Plunge into ignorance

To use emptiness, we must admit: we do not know what is behind it. It is, and it is pushing us to something. But why? Managers are obliged to know the answer to this question.

In such a situation, a leader becomes an "ignorant teacher" who does not explain the subject to the students, but stimulates them to an independent search. "He tells them to go further into the thicket of the forest, and then tell what they saw there and what they think about what they saw," writes the French philosopher Jacques Ranciere in his book The Ignorant Schoolmaster.

A leader does the same thing when he does not give ready answers and admits that he himself does not know them. He pushes employees to new knowledge and supports them in independent discoveries.

This does not mean that a leader must renounce everything he knows, become an ignoramus and a fool. You need to have knowledge in various fields to direct people in the right direction. A true leader is required only to distance oneself from one's own knowledge at the moment of the beginning of searches. He must be ready to jump into the unknown.

How to use emptiness?

1. Recognize its availability

Stop denying emptiness and try to patch it up. Just admit: gaps exist, and that's good.

2. Find promising voids

A leader should recognize those emptiness that would lead to significant positive changes in the organization. This is not easy: to approach the most promising voids is usually the worst thing. They are plastered with several layers of habitual behavior, routine and other "we always did it." This should be a signal to you: most likely, you have to dig here.

3. Show emptiness to colleagues

Denial and fear of emptiness are inherent to all. A leader will have to open his eyes to colleagues. The main thing is to show emptiness, not to look for the guilty, not to try to criticize, shame and condemn anyone.

4. Establish a framework that will allow studying the void

To start the process of understanding gaps, a leader must offer a basic concept, a leitmotif, a metaphor that describes, but does not name. For example, a discussion of a conflict between two employees can begin by comparing the team with the family, squad or crew of a ship.

Based on “The Ignorant Maestro. How Great Leaders Inspire Unpredictable Brilliance” by Itay Talgam


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