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Get Out of the Way and Lead! Create a Culture of Innovation and Fearlessness

Thursday, February 9, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: John Murphy, Author, Speaker, and Zentrepreneur
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To learn more about leading innovative, disruptive change, attend John Murphy’s AAOE 2017 Annual Conference session, “Leading Innovation and Transformational Change in a World of Continuous Improvement: How to Apply Global Best Practices to Outsmart Your Competition and Wow Your Customers.”

Inspiration cannot be copied. It is up to each one of us to be in-spirit – to be fearless. True passion is not patentable. We can buy tools, software, and equipment. We can hire top talent and benchmark best practices, but we cannot order a culture of innovation and fearlessness. We cannot insist that people be excited about something they are not excited about.

Inspiring leadership requires many things—strategic clarity, vision, knowledge, creativity, competence, confidence, and communication. But these attributes alone, while necessary and important, are no guarantee of peak performance. To lead effectively in today’s global marketplace, we must demonstrate passion, presence, poise, wisdom, compassion, and grace. People have to feel the zenergy, not just think it! Commitment from the heart far outweighs agreement from the head when it comes to motivation.

Albert Einstein once said, “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex; it takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” Stop and ask yourself: are you simplifying things in your organization or complicating them? Are you innovating or interrupting change? Are you subtracting or adding complexity? Are you using time, energy, resources, and space to wow people or are you allowing obstacles and excuses to get in the way?

I believe there is a zentrepreneur within all of us, a fearless soul seeking freedom and creative expression. The problem is many people do not see this. Fear has taken over and become a major barrier to success. Insecurity, doubt, anxiety, stress, hesitation, worry, and a host of other feelings imprison the soul and restrict behavior. Life then passes by on autopilot, staying in the lines to fit in or avoid conflict. In many cases, we are trapped without knowing it. The subconscious mind, more than one-million times more powerful than the conscious mind, governs our life as if we are driving with the brakes on. Without awareness, we become our own worst enemy. 

Great leaders today are waking up to this reality and helping others do the same. We are tapping our own inner zentrepreneur to help unleash the zentrepreneur in others. We are finding useful and productive ways to channel ingenuity and imagination into innovation and transformation. We are using methods like Kaizen Events to pull people together to act on ideas quickly and find win-win solutions. We are getting obstacles out of our team’s way so the team can get obstacles out of our way.

The Japanese word kaizen means “good change.” It combines the word kai, which means to take apart and make new, with the word zen, which means to think good, positive well-being. A Kaizen Event is typically a three to five day event in which a team “blitzes” a process, problem, or product with good change in mind. The key is to then make the changes now while we have the right people in the room, not talk about it or plan it for another day. These events are fast, proactive, and highly-engaging. When facilitated effectively, good ideas flow and meaningful improvements are implemented. People feel inspired, valued, listened to, and trusted. A change in culture can actually be witnessed from Monday to Friday, where people go from hesitant, skeptical, and worried to excited, engaged, and thankful by the end of the week. 

In one recent Kaizen Event for one of the largest companies in the world, a team member offered, “We accomplished more good change in a week than we typically do in a year.” In another event for the same company the team found a way to reduce a 53 day process down to less than a day. As a business consultant and zentrepreneur, I know of no better way to change culture quickly than through meaningful Kaizen Events. These team events tap the limitless creativity, imaginations, and inspirations of people and give them a disciplined methodology to turn good ideas into great results – fast!

Great leaders, strategists and innovators also know that the market and the customers do not always know what they want. We see needs that others miss. We observe struggles. We witness frustrations and annoyances. We see painful habits that people have simply come to know and live with. Of course kids carry heavy backpacks loaded with books to school. Of course people call into an 800 line to get help with a question or place an order. Of course people go to the library to conduct research or get a book. Perhaps we should make stronger backpacks, hire more telephone reps, and offshore some of them to save money. Perhaps we should build more libraries. Really? With this logic Henry Ford would have tried to build a faster horse.

We don’t know what we don’t know. Ignorance is not only the root cause to most of our problems. It is also the source of limitless potential and opportunity in the market. Why not “beam” books to lightweight templates and eliminate the need for bigger, stronger backpacks for school? Why not improve the environment by reducing the carbon footprint and waste at the same time? Why not set up more user-friendly self-help options for people so they don’t have to call an 800 number if they don’t want to? The potential for zentrepreneurship is unlimited. Innovation and fearlessness are key competitive advantages today. They always have been. Every manifestation you see around you started with an idea and a bold, courageous warrior willing to take action – perhaps even going in the opposite direction. Tap this resource, and the future will never look the same.


About the Author:

John Murphy is an award-winning author, speaker and consultant and author of Zentrepreneur. Visit

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