The Journey Beyond Fear: Are we leading companies driven by fear?

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The Journey Beyond Fear: Are we leading companies driven by fear?

Center for the Edge founding father John Hagel releases new book

What if fear prevents both companies and individuals from harnessing and developing their potential? For decades, John Hagel has helped leaders of several of the world's largest companies drive transformation. In his new book, he claims that the key to transformation less about strategy and more about psychology

John Hagel is considered one of the world's leading thinkers in strategy and management. His latest book, The Journey Beyond Fear, is the result of decades of in-depth conversations with leaders of the world's largest corporations and organizations. Eventually, one thing caught his attention.

As the CEOs started opening up to Hagel, the conversation shifted towards the mounting pressure they felt, their worries and fears.

― Fear was everywhere, Hagel says in a new interview about the book – you can see the entire conversation here. The interview is conducted by Daniel Sunde-Hansen, Deloitte Norway’s Center for the Edge lead.

The key to transformation is psychology, not strategy

Companies focus on developing and driving strategy, but spend little time on psychology on the individual level, Hagel points out.

Hagel: – Over time I have come to realize that it is less about strategy, and much more about psychology. If we do not understand the emotions that are driving us as individuals, the best strategy is just going to sit on a shelf somewhere and nothing is going to happen.

What drives your narrative?

The book begins by discusses narratives, which in Hagel's definition differ from stories. In a narrative, the end is not resolved but depends on help from others. An important point is what drives the narrative towards the future. Is the mindset characterized by avoiding something or achieving something? Is the dominant feeling fear or do you see opportunities?

– If we are consumed by fear, we cannot see those opportunities, Hagel points out.

The pandemic and the burning platform

The COVID-19 pandemic was a driver of change on a grand scale. At the same time, a common phrase has been “We need to bounce back”, and “We must be strong and resilient”. Is that narrative also driven by fear?

Hagel: – Yes, I think that is part of the reason that I am so focused on the emotions – and in particular fear. For decades I have been helping companies to drive transformation in their business, and I have come to see that fear is a barrier.

As long as leaders and the people in the rank and file are afraid, it is going to be extremely hard to drive change, Hagel says.

Many leaders try to drive change through a "burning platform": "If we do not do this, the company will not survive." But according to Hagel, this can drive the opposite result. The fear that we will not survive makes us seek back to the known. Instead of being driven by fear, change should be driven by commitment.

Conquer your fear, achieve your potential, and make a positive difference

In the book, Hagel lays out a framework enabling you to move beyond your fear and create opportunities that benefit all:

  • Develop an inspiring long-term view of the opportunities ahead
  • Cultivate your passion to motivate you and those around you
  • Harness the potential of platforms to bring people together and scale impact at an accelerating rate

― You should never underestimate the power of fear. You should also never underestimate your ability to conquer it.

Watch the full interview with John Hagel about "The Journey Beyond Fear"

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