What is it that makes change makers so impactful? And what can we learn from them? How does resilience turn into a strength that when combined with other strengths becomes a true superpower?
As I am adding the finishing touches on my upcoming book that answers these questions in the context of what makes co-creation successful, I would like to share an emerging bit of insight that hopefully adds value to you.
Kathy Miller has expanded the personal resilience story I have shared in January reflecting on my WEF experience with her insights on what makes organizations resilient, pointing out how few companies possess the cultural backbone that enables such resilience. Here I am turning the spotlight on a remarkable group of people that are emerging as the pillars of change in turbulent world: the change makers.
My book features six change makers from all walks of life. They have a few things in common:
- They feel an increasing need to connect what they do at work with what concerns them in life in general
- They are triggered and challenged by their environment (students, colleagues, kids, news) to acknowledge that what they do no longer works
- They have a capacity to reflect and the courage to listen and learn
- They are able and willing to engage with others, often strangers, to try old things in new ways and to collaborate in entirely new settings and with new approaches
What none of them had, however, were superpowers. And here is were we come in. All of us who care and who resonate with the above. Superpowers can be acquired and developed. Let me explain!
In his book “Building the bridge as you walk on it”, Robert Quinn offers a new way to look at leadership competencies. He suggests moving beyond a static view of preferred traits that we “should” possess, to a dynamic view of so-called competing strength that are both required but which need to be equally developed in order to achieve a higher state in which both strengths lead to a higher state of competency. Too complicated? Take the example of two strengths we are all familiar with:
- Being tough and providing structure and limits
- Caring about the other and being lenient and forgiving
Both of these are undoubtedly strengths, yet one without the other will not lead to an ideal outcome. Quinn argues that we need both of them and calls for a higher state of “tough love”. Makes sense, right! You got the concept that I use to define superpowers!
A superpower for me is when a strength polarity pair is overcome and super strength, or superpower, emerges!
In my research that has led to the sequel of the Collaboratory book, we have identified the following three superpowers of individual change makers in co-creation processes (see also Figure 1):
- Appreciative curiosity results from being constructive and positive, overcoming self-righteous judgment.
- Building bridges happens when an inclusive influencer stops being opinionated or unprincipled.
- Empathic support comes from being open and caring, resisting the temptation to be distant and withdraw.
From Strengths to Superpowers
We have developed the strengths by having identified the reasons why co-creation efforts among stakeholders fails most often. We have labelled these causes “limitations” and found out that these limitations are not failures or weaknesses, but rather strengths that have turned into a negative expression due to insisting too much. Each strength therefore has a negative expression when over-stretched (see Figure 2). This is something that you may have experienced when having either experienced somebody being too tough or somebody being too caring.
From Limitations to Strengths
The journey from limitations to strength and from strengths to superpowers is the development journey of the heroes of our times: the change makers. I am sure that you have used your inherent strengths in various combinations with other strengths to develop your very own personal superpowers. Here I invite you to take a look at the strengths we have identified in our research in Figure 2 and to ask yourself: where am I on the scale of these strengths and their respective limitations? Which limitation have I noticed in myself when I overstretch a strength and how can this overview help me return to my powerful expression of the strength again?
The book highlights two additional levels of superpowers that come into play when we co-create: the superpowers of a stakeholder group and the superpower of facilitating the space for solving shared issue. You will find out more about these in the book which is expected in a bookstore near you in September this year.
Robert Quinn (2004): Building the bridge as you walk on it. Jossey-Bass.
Katrin Muff (2013): The Collaboratory – A co-creative stakeholder process for solving complex problems. Greenleaf Publications.