Organisational Germ or Antibody - which one?
If I asked you if you were an organisational “germ” or an “antibody” - which one would you choose? My hunch is you would choose “antibody”. Antibodies are good things, white knights that keep systems healthy and that fight off bad germs. Who would want to identify with germs? But maybe we are looking at germs in the wrong way.
I have spent over 20 years shaping and leading transformational change and performance improvement in large blue chip Australian companies and governments. I have had the pleasure of being a leader in two world-first service innovations in large organisations and I am fascinated by the dynamics that create successful transformational change and performance improvement. Recently, in the midst of working as an HR Director on one such transformation, a consultant confided to me that he didn’t like our chances of success. “I can see the organisational antibodies are coming out in force to kill off this change.” In these few words he summed up the challenge so many of us face when undertaking major change in organisations.
Organisations reward antibodies
Executives often bemoan people being “resistant to change”. In fact, a more useful statement would be that organisations are systems that are designed to be resistant to change and have very powerful norms, reward systems, work processes, structural silos, leadership controls and group dynamics that are activated to resist change, innovation and new ideas in much the same way that antibodies work to kill off germs in the human body.
The germ of a brilliant idea
In fact, if you Google the definition of “germ” you will find two definitions. The first is “a micro-organism, especially one which causes disease”. The second definition however hints at the transformational potential of germs in innovation and change. A germ is also defined as “a portion of an organism capable of developing into a new one or part of one – the embryo in a cereal grain or other plant seed; an initial stage from which something may develop – ‘the germ of a brilliant idea’”.
Courageous leadership and space for germs of innovation
Exponential performance improvement in organisations usually requires the creation of cultures that nurture and empower people who have the germs of brilliant ideas that would normally be killed off by organisational antibodies that pressure for conformity and same-ness. This is why breakthrough innovation and performance improvement requires courageous leaders who can create the space and the climate for people with new ideas to grow and flourish, to try and fail, and to learn and grow.
Are you this kind of leader?
Consultant | Mentor | Change Leader
Work with Susan
Susan provides consultancy advice, mentoring, program leadership and interim executive support to leaders and organisations where there is a need to challenge the status quo, engage people, shift culture and lift performance.