How Flexible Are You? Creating Supportive and Innovative Systems

Innovation thrives on flexibility. Unfortunately, that is the last thing most organizations welcome.

A friend of mine is a medical massage therapist focusing in Active Isolated Stretching. By working with him over the last 13 years, I have done far more than I ever thought possible in running. He played a critical role in running my first marathon a year ago.

How was that flexibility so important? Why is it so important to your innovation?

This is the fourth post in a series about building a cutting-edge culture to create a radical transformation. You might be interested in the previous posts on sharing your cutting edge vision and Developing a Collaborative Spirit. In this post I want you to understand how to create innovative practices that foster a team mindset of disruption. That is no small

Murfield Coaching solves significant problems through innovative thinking. To solve those problems, we have to do things differently. It starts by magnifying your unique value, not replicating what others do. That requires a paradigm shift, i.e. innovative thinking to solve significant problems. Our clients most appreciate our emphasis on building employee engagement, alleviating employee trauma, and unleashing disruptive innovation. We know from our research that innovation occurs most often within a cutting-edge organizational culture. It’s not just talent, it takes a cohesive team.

The Winning Trifecta

Everyone know that to run a marathon requires extensive training. Any novice runner knows that it also takes the proper fuel to run 26.2 miles. But it is the savvy, experienced runner who understands the value of stretching.

Stretching keeps the muscles pliable and less likely to get injured. Injury is damage and setbacks, frustrating our success.

In business, many of our organizations focus heavily upon strength, demanding that we become lean and mean. Some are good at providing the training but many fall short. Still others recognize what is needed to keep going (beyond a paycheck.) Very few recognize the importance of stretching the mindset or developing the flexibility to create disruptive innovation.

Inflexible Signs

A runner can tell when their muscles are tight. They feel resistance instead of pliability. Innovative leaders will also recognize the signs of inflexibility.

Fear Fosters Inflexible Thinking

To be flexible, we are willing and able to bend our thinking. Unfortunately, we see many who are inflexible in their thinking by what they say.

  • “I’ve never done it that way before.”
  • “We have never done it that way before.”
  • “That’s not the way I like to do it.”
  • “I found my way works better.”
  • “That’s not the way we do it here.”
  • “It’s too hard.”
  • “You have to understand, . . .”

Notice that these comments reflect a fear of change. They don’t know what they can do and are afraid of trying.

What is your team afraid of when facing innovative opportunities?

Deflect the Criticism

When my wife and I first started running, we received three snarky comments that we have used as motivation.

  • “Why would you want to do that? “
  • “Are you trying to develop a bad hear or bad knees?”
  • “If you see me running, call the cops because someone is chasing me.”

Critics are not there to help but to prove their point. They deflect the innovative opportunity based on a direct challenge, explaining their defense or simply humor.

What challenges are you receiving from your team?

Counter the Excuses

As we have encouraged others to get out and move to feel better and be healthier, we have heard a number of excuses (which are simply inflexible thoughts coming out.”

  • “I don’t like to run.”
  • “I can’t run.”
  • “It’s too much work.”
  • “I’m too busy”
  • “I have kids”
  • “You have to understand . . .”

Inflexibility is the excuse of those unwilling to disrupt the present for the great opportunities of the future. Listen for the inflexibility and offer an opportunity to stretch their thinking.

  • What excuses are you hearing about their flexibility?
  • Are you using any of those excuses for your own inflexibility?
  • Hear that flexibility as fear of change. They just don’t understand what is possible.

Offer a Different Perspective

While training for our marathon, we adopted a run-walk-run system that has worked well. Like many runners, we thought the only way to be an authentic runner was to start running a race and not stop to walk. We struggled to make it beyond a 10k with that method. So we adopted the Jeff Galloway system that was a radical change.

The system we use is to run 30 seconds, walk 30 seconds and repeat the cycle. At times we will shift to a 15-30 system.

We used this system when we ran our first marathon in January of 2018. We continue to use it because it makes a seemingly impossible venture a reality.

What new system can you offer your team that makes what they thought was “impossible” a reality?

Make Flexibility Easy

I have explained the system to many people who are absolutely amazed that if you run for 15 seconds and walk for 30 then repeat the cycle, you can finish a half marathon in about 3 hours 15 minutes. You can finish a full marathon in 6 hours 30 minutes. We know we because we just ran a half marathon in 3 hours and 1 minute using the 15-30 (We had a good pace that day.)

The response often is “I can do that!” Who can’t? Almost everyone can run for 15 seconds.

How can you show your team how easy it is to be flexible?

Find Your Reward

We also say, “We don’t love running.” That is the truth. Running is a chore and not something that we welcome. But we do it for the results. We love the finisher medals. We definitely enjoy the accolades from those that don’t run. Then we appreciate knowing we are doing something many our age are not. Knowing why we are running and when we get our rewards makes doing what we don’t particularly enjoy, a lot more enticing.

What reward does your team need to become more flexible?

Great Stories Encourage Flexibility

We do tell people how much fun it is to connect with others. I recently met a woman that is about 70 years old who has walked 72 half marathons. She doesn’t run or pretend to. She simply walks. That is impressive. I know it makes me want to keep going.

We have met another of others, like Aaron Buros who is in the process of running the world’s 6 greatest major marathons even though he has 2 bullet fragments in his body. But maybe what is most impressive about Aaron is his energy. He was my pacer for a run a year ago and he made it the most enjoyable run I have experienced. Everyone on the course could hear us singing, laughing and shouting. I wish he was in every race I entered.

What great, authentic stories does your team need to be inspired and be more flexible?

Supportive Systems

Innovative organizations find systems that work for them. However, as you will see below, innovative organizations foster flexibility in their systems.

  • Listen to the inflexibility.
  • Offer a different perspective that works.
  • Make it easy to be flexible.
  • Find your reward (and theirs).
  • Tell great, but true, stories of innovation.

(c) 2019 Murfield International, Inc.




Loren Murfield, Ph.D.

I enjoy helping individuals develop their dreams into innovative
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