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One of the most persistent challenges we encounter in developing effective leaders in organizations is that of labeling people, and nowhere is this more apparent than when discussions of the new digital world arise. Say digital and most everyone in business, academics, government—even the average person on the street—will quickly start labeling people as digitally savvy or “not digitally savvy.”

As early as 2001, Marc Prensky, in his widely distributed essay introduced the terms “Digital Native” and “Digital Immigrant,” with Natives being those who were born directly into the digital age, and Immigrants being those to whom digital happened. Being age- and chronology-based, the Native/Immigrant distinction has often been challenged—more recently with the distinction between Residents and Visitors of the digital world highlighted in this VR Project article.

In this model, Residents live in a digital world in which they express themselves fully and build and maintain human relationships in the online space, while Visitors dip in to digital to accomplish specific tasks. Presented more as a continuum, this framing solves the age-based problem, but still tends to place people in one camp or the other at any point in time. Then, of course, there is the persistent labeling of people as Millennials or “not Millenials” (i.e., everyone else).

Regardless of the framing, two management questions arise out of such labels:

  1. How do I lead and manage teams of people for whom digital is as natural as breathing oxygen when the tools, models and practices of this world may be newer and more foreign to me? (spoken usually from the position of more traditional, legacy-based experience)
  2. Or, how do I lead people who just don’t get digital? (uttered by Xers and more recently Millennials who find themselves high in the organizational structure, leading teams of people potentially less digitally savvy and often older than they)

From the perspective of our research and teachings at the Institute for Personal Leadership, the answer to these opposite and complementary questions is the same: mindsets. Rather than grouping those who are leading and those who are being led in the digital realm by characteristics of generation, age, access, experience, savviness, comfort and so on; our experience and research show that if we begin to understand ourselves and others from the context of mindsets, many of the perceived barriers of “us vs. them,” “we vs. they,” and “know vs. don’t know” models can be eliminated.

Specifically, we work with two mindset frameworks: 1) Fixed vs. Growth mindset and 2) Knower vs. Learner mindset. Closely related, these two mindset models start giving leaders new freedom from any pre-existing notion of “who they are,” “unchangeable,” or “what they know,” and thus should be heeded.

In our live workshops, we often ask people in a silent poll to answer the question “ Is your character changeable?” and without fail we find that most participants believe that—unlike skill, knowledge and even intelligence—character is fixed, unchangeable, something that we just are. Which then leads to the introduction of the Fixed vs. Growth mindset framework, researched and articulated beautifully and extensively by Stanford’s renowned professor, Dr. Carol Dweck. We won’t cover this mindset in depth here, but note that it’s about opening leaders’ eyes (and beliefs) to the notion that both their intelligence and their character are changeable and open to continuous development, improvement and evolution.

Simply put, this transformative view is a powerful answer to the question: “ Yes, but this is how I am so how am I supposed to operate and lead in a world that is completely different than anything I’ve ever known before?”. By adopting a Growth mindset, our participants come to understand that “ how I am” is not fixed. Rather, it is an invitation to “ how I can be.

A bit more pragmatically, we find that helping people shift from a Knower mindset to a Learner mindset is an equally transformative leadership tool—a direct answer to questions 1 and 2 above. Revisiting those questions, we can now see that both have at their heart a Knower mindset, whether it’s expressed as “ I know this, they do not” or “ They know this, I do not.

Introducing leaders to the advantages of a Learner mindset, in which “ I know” is set aside, opens up many possibilities:

  1. To operate with curiosity
  2. To inspire personal growth
  3. To integrate new ideas
  4. To see collaboration as an opportunity, not a compromise
  5. To feel the excitement of “the new” again

In the big picture, shifting ourselves from “ I am fixed the way I am, and I worked hard to know everything I know” to “ I always have the opportunity to grow, and there is almost always something to learn here” is the ultimate destroyer of labels and divisions. We are no longer Millennials or not, Natives or not, Visitors or not. We cross the digitaldivide, as well as the divide of what we believe. We become better leaders, better teammates, better partners, better followers—in work, play and life.

“Digital Ready” - It’s All About the Mindsets




Insight

Article Headline

Author

One of the most persistent challenges we encounter in developing effective leaders in organizations is that of labeling people, and nowhere is this more apparent than when discussions of the new digital world arise. Say digital and most everyone in business, academics, government—even the average person on the street—will quickly start labeling people as digitally savvy or “not digitally savvy.”

As early as 2001, Marc Prensky, in his widely distributed essay introduced the terms “Digital Native” and “Digital Immigrant,” with Natives being those who were born directly into the digital age, and Immigrants being those to whom digital happened. Being age- and chronology-based, the Native/Immigrant distinction has often been challenged—more recently with the distinction between Residents and Visitors of the digital world highlighted in this V&R Project article.

In this model, Residents live in a digital world in which they express themselves fully and build and maintain human relationships in the online space, while Visitors dip in to digital to accomplish specific tasks. Presented more as a continuum, this framing solves the age-based problem, but still tends to place people in one camp or the other at any point in time. Then, of course, there is the persistent labeling of people as Millennials or “not Millenials” (i.e., everyone else).

Regardless of the framing, two management questions arise out of such labels:

  1. How do I lead and manage teams of people for whom digital is as natural as breathing oxygen when the tools, models and practices of this world may be newer and more foreign to me? (spoken usually from the position of more traditional, legacy-based experience)
  2. Or, how do I lead people who just don’t get digital? (uttered by Xers and more recently Millennials who find themselves high in the organizational structure, leading teams of people potentially less digitally savvy and often older than they)

From the perspective of our research and teachings at the Institute for Personal Leadership, the answer to these opposite and complementary questions is the same: mindsets. Rather than grouping those who are leading and those who are being led in the digital realm by characteristics of generation, age, access, experience, savviness, comfort and so on; our experience and research show that if we begin to understand ourselves and others from the context of mindsets, many of the perceived barriers of “us vs. them,” “we vs. they,” and “know vs. don’t know” models can be eliminated.

Specifically, we work with two mindset frameworks: 1) Fixed vs. Growth mindset and 2) Knower vs. Learner mindset. Closely related, these two mindset models start giving leaders new freedom from any pre-existing notion of “who they are,” “unchangeable,” or “what they know,” and thus should be heeded.

In our live workshops, we often ask people in a silent poll to answer the question “Is your character changeable?” and without fail we find that most participants believe that—unlike skill, knowledge and even intelligence—character is fixed, unchangeable, something that we just are. Which then leads to the introduction of the Fixed vs. Growth mindset framework, researched and articulated beautifully and extensively by Stanford’s renowned professor, Dr. Carol Dweck. We won’t cover this mindset in depth here, but note that it’s about opening leaders’ eyes (and beliefs) to the notion that both their intelligence and their character are changeable and open to continuous development, improvement and evolution.

Simply put, this transformative view is a powerful answer to the question: “Yes, but this is how I am so how am I supposed to operate and lead in a world that is completely different than anything I’ve ever known before?”. By adopting a Growth mindset, our participants come to understand that “how I am” is not fixed. Rather, it is an invitation to “how I can be.

A bit more pragmatically, we find that helping people shift from a Knower mindset to a Learner mindset is an equally transformative leadership tool—a direct answer to questions 1 and 2 above. Revisiting those questions, we can now see that both have at their heart a Knower mindset, whether it’s expressed as “I know this, they do not” or “They know this, I do not.

Introducing leaders to the advantages of a Learner mindset, in which “I know” is set aside, opens up many possibilities:

  1. To operate with curiosity
  2. To inspire personal growth
  3. To integrate new ideas
  4. To see collaboration as an opportunity, not a compromise
  5. To feel the excitement of “the new” again

In the big picture, shifting ourselves from “I am fixed the way I am, and I worked hard to know everything I know” to “I always have the opportunity to grow, and there is almost always something to learn here” is the ultimate destroyer of labels and divisions. We are no longer Millennials or not, Natives or not, Visitors or not. We cross the digitaldivide, as well as the divide of what we believe. We become better leaders, better teammates, better partners, better followers—in work, play and life.


If you would like to bring Personal Leadership to your organization, please click here.

If you are an individual wanting to go on your own Personal Leadership journey with us, consider enrolling in our Master Class on Cultivating a Winner's Mindset related to the article above: 

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Diversity is Not Enough in an Increasingly VUCA World

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Whether familiar with the term VUCA or not, we are all familiar with its effect on both our personal and business lives. Originally introduced in the 1990s by the US Army War College to describe a new world of military engagement, VUCA is an acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.

It is often said (and difficult to dispute), we now live in a VUCA world. This world puts heavy demand on workplace teams and leaders. To solve problems and advance our agendas, we must be more than just experts – we must be agile, quick, innovative, collaborative, decisive, adaptive and creative.

To that list, let’s add two more critical qualities: that our teams and people must be diverse and inclusive  – two of the most important organizational concepts for making successful high-impact decisions in such a world.

A plethora of research supports the call for diversity, including a recent study from McKinsey demonstrating that companies with high racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above respective industry medians. Common sense and managerial best practices further suggest the need for a plurality of points of view, experience, expertise, beliefs – even hunches – as inputs to achieve the decisive, high-impact outputs we so desire.

There is the well-understood notion of “getting out of the box,” of course, and the somewhat more challenging view once proposed by a Zen master that, “the instructions for getting out of the box are written on the outside of the box.” Which is to say that if your only frame of reference is the inside of the box, how do you even know there is a box to get out of? Or as John F. Kennedy pointed out, “The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations.

Add diversity to your team and you’re sure to see the instructions for getting out of the box more quickly, to break through clichéd and prefabricated solutions. And yet, just having diversity in the room does not automatically assure a true diversity of inputs because if you don’t actually include the divergent voices and views in the decision making process, it’s just the same as if they weren’t there at all. Enter the importance of inclusion – of creating a culture that recognizes, celebrates, includes and integrates the diverse and the different.

In other words, having diversity in the room means nothing if that diversity cannot be expressed, actually heard, credibly considered, assessed and integrated into solutions. Furthermore, you can have a room packed with diversity – of gender, ethnicity, role, function, experience, belief and so forth – and the advantages of that diversity can be undone in an instant by well-known syndromes such as “seniority first,” “smartest person in the room,” “the loudest gets heard,” or “the most aggressive prevails.”

How, then, do we create a culture of inclusion? How do we avoid the “clichés of our forebears”?

This is a key part of the inside-out training in our program on High Impact Decision-Making at the Institute for Personal Leadership. It is inside-out because you won’t be able to engage in the best behavior without first understanding and mastering your own thoughts, emotions, beliefs and motivations. Nor will you be able to get the best out of others without first understanding their inner lives.

Our research and practice at IPL shows that once a person has integrated the science of inner mastery, they are ready to use a variety of principles and tools to create an environment ripe for inclusion – one in which the best thinking can emerge, where silent voices can be heard, where conflict becomes collaboration, and where curiosity among all participants is encouraged and cultivated.

High Impact Decision-Making helps teams learn how to follow the principles of AIDE, in which everyone helps everyone 1) ALIGN with a common purpose, 2) continue to INQUIRE with humble questions and an open mind, 3) nurture effective DIALOGs, and 4) foster an environment in which everyone can ENGAGE.

This quickly moves teams from traditional team culture and dynamics better suited to bygone times to a new, inclusive culture more suited to the VUCA world. A culture where:

1. Collaboration supplants competition
2. Learning is as important as short-term results
3. Everyone is the “smartest” in the room
4. Reflection balances confidence
5. Productive conflict is nurtured rather than avoided

In short, the diversity you have hired is now truly included, and the organization reaps all the additional benefits. A blank canvas is created upon which the best new ideas can flourish and really begin to shape the future. Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity? Meet diversity and inclusion – powerful allies for leadership in an ever-changing world.


If you would like to bring Personal Leadership to your organization, please click here.

If you would like to enroll in High Impact Decision-Making, click on the image below: 

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