David has just finished reading The Challenger Spirit by Khurshed Denugara and Claire Genkai Breeze and couldn’t resist sharing one of its many highlights. Huge thanks to Kylie Roberts from Grant Thornton for recommending it.
The Challenger Spirit is a great read but not the type of book that I would have been interested in…or so I foolishly thought. I tend to hover around the stuff on leadership and thinking and didn’t realise this is exactly what this book is about. The front cover has a lozenge with the words ‘Organisations That Disturb The Status Quo’ in it. This is what threw me off the ‘leadership and thinking’ scent but make no mistake, this book is about leadership. And in addition to all its brilliant reflections for company bosses, there is a tonne of stuff that relates to the challenges we face in society and with the environment. To pick one highlight was therefore a big challenge for me but the one that has my mental cogs spinning all week is the contrast between the thoughts ‘what is?’ and ‘what if?’.
‘What is?’ refers to the energy and effort people in organisations give to proving, persevering, measuring, reporting on, talking about and generally being engrossed in the way things currently are. Whereas ‘what if?’ moves us beyond all of that and kick starts a whole new set of processes in the cerebrum. It’s the ultimate question of creativity as it incisively locks out all our perceptions and old ways of thinking and, in doing so, allows us to think without their bias.
‘What if?’ is the ultimate leadership question in creating the chance to challenge your markets and competitors. The more it’s asked, the more odds of success move in your favour. So why isn’t everyone asking ‘what if?’ everyday? One reason may be the discomfort it causes. ‘What is?’ provides a safe blanket of certainty. It can be measured and put on a spreadsheet. It can provide to-do lists and a sense of daily achievement. You can apply it to budgets and forecasts and financially model it. ‘What if?’ creates uncertainty and abstract concepts that not everyone can or wants to grapple with but it also creates possibilities that could actually provide more safety than sticking with ‘what is?’ whilst your competitors plot your demise. So why not try a bit of discomfort and ask ‘what if?’ a few times a day until it becomes a habit?