Why the “Burning Platform” Concept is Obsolete

Blog Post Breakthrough Results, Enterprise-Wide Transformation

Are you creating the conditions for new thinking and actions? Or relying on old recipes and analogies?

In the face of an uncertain, ever-changing VUCA environment (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous), leaders and managers are still too often tempted to rely on the “burning platform” analogy. Coming from a terrible event (almost 30 years ago!) of an oil rig’s burning platform and the critical choices to be made, this became an unavoidable brick of the “case for change” and was meant to rally the troupes and justify large-scale change. While maybe a valid analogy for some time, it has lost its usefulness and is even detrimental to powerful leadership.

In the face of that VUCA environment we all face, how can we…

Create possibilities for the future

If your intent is to lead your teams (and yourself) towards a bold and sometimes unknown future, look to harness the power of possibility. Share a vision for the future instead of acting out of fear, as a reaction to a threat. Undeniably, fear can be a lever for action; it will not create a sustainable future and will always stifle creativity and innovation.

Provide Inspiration

Be a leader that embraces the unknown and can shape the future; this requires the willingness to let go of what has made us successful in the past, including wanting to have “the” answer and appearing to be “in control” of the organization’s destiny. Inspiration, authentic and inclusive leadership are powerful levers to engage all employees towards the desired future.

Not skip on investing in culture

Intentionally create the culture necessary to achieve the transformation and shape the future. Although a recurring theme at both CEO and innovation conferences, too often investment on culture takes second (or third, or fourth…) place to investments in “hard” stuff. Focusing the “case for change” only on the threats does not create the conditions for the culture change that many organizations are calling out.

 

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