As I searched for pretty pictures for my title of this week's blog, two main ones popped up: "go with the flow" and "only dead fish go with the flow". The former seemed to suggest that going with the flow was a preferable, less stressful way to live your life that freed you up to embrace the ups and downs of our world. The latter seems to suggest that you're falling behind and literally dead in the water if you choose to go with the flow.
My guess is that a little bit of both is appropriate because going all out for one way of thinking and behaving limits your choices and your horizons.
This is the eternal juggling act of business. When do you apply controls, continue marching in the same direction no matter what and when do you relax, meander in a general direction, accepting what comes along as potential opportunities? It's a tricky conundrum and one which many business' and business leaders get horribly wrong.
I like to use the analogy of my nine month old puppy to help me understand the balance that is best to achieve for everyone.
He needs space, time and freedom to explore his surroundings. He needs to know that running away has consequences and that sitting nicely when asked to do so also has consequences: he prefers receiving a treat to being ignored so he runs away less and sits nicely more often.
He has his space in the form of his bed and he understands that he is allowed on the sofa, but not on the table. He also knows that he's allowed to play in the garden and is free to do so on his own, but that he's not allowed to escape into next doors garden.
Since he is a free-thinking and independently minded puppy who is reasonably intelligent, he has worked out that once left alone in the garden, he is free to escape next door and eat the bread put out for the birds. As a consequence, new boundaries are being put in place which mean he will experience unpleasant consequences when he attempts to cross those boundaries (it's ok, it's a dog safe electric fence & has been approved by vets - a normal fence didn't work as he dug underneath it!). He will quickly learn not to cross those boundaries.
So, there have to be some clear controls and boundaries that people understand and within those boundaries and controls there needs to be freedom to explore, create and go with the flow. When the landscape changes, the controls and boundaries will change and new ones must be created to suit the new environment because sticking to the old ones will be confusing and ineffective.
It's the freedom within the controls and boundaries that many organisation's struggle with. And yet, it's that freedom from control, the ability to go with the flow and that space to create that generates the biggest, best, most profitable advances for organisations. It certainly works for Google and Apple.
You'll be amazed at what your people can achieve when they're given that space and time. So perhaps, enlarging the boundaries, loosening one or two controls and trusting people will learn to explore within those perameters is the best way to get the balance right between flow and control.
Besides, in my experience, when an organisation attempts to control everything, rebellions begin to emerge & corners get cut, more information is fabricated and the only loser is the person who is increasingly desperately trying to control everything.
Rebecca is an expert in human behaviour and communication, working with organisations and leaders to improve leadership, team work, sales, performance and more.
Contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org 07734 934084 or www.rebeccainspires.com