New Ways through Challenging Times

New Ways through Challenging Times

I’m sure you’ll have come across the phrase, 'If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got.' Often attributed to the likes of Henry Ford and Tony Robbins, its meaning is obvious. In these times of uncertainty and disruption, the need to review what we do and to respond to the need for change is obvious. It barely needs saying.

Acknowledging the Challenges We Face

It’s obvious to everyone with a modicum of sense, we are in challenging times: the Covid 19 pandemic, war in Ukraine, impending shocks in global supply chains, disruption to food supplies, economic downturn, increasing inflation, the environment is far from stable.  The world has changed.  We cannot do what we’ve always done and expect to ‘get what we’ve always got’.  Wise business leaders look for new ways in challenging times.  They realise the need to be proactive responding to the challenging times we are living through.

Responding with Wisdom

What might it mean to have wisdom as a business leader?  For the purpose of this article, I want summarise two characteristics of wisdom in firstly, the ability to make sound, practical decisions and secondly the ability to interpret their immediate operation context.  I sometimes refer to this as ‘responding to its heartbeat’.  In other words, they ‘wise business leaders’ listen carefully, are in touch with their operational context,  interpret practical challenges and respond with effective, practical decisions that have impact.

Planners, Navigators and Leadership

In times of stability, I often describe wise leaders as great planners, able to develop and deliver consistent strategies for development in a known world.  In times of disruption and uncertainty, we need a different kind of leader.  We need navigators more than planners, people who lead into the unknown.   We are in times of disruption and uncertainty.  These are the times of the navigator leader……..There are also the times for those who will enable navigators, the change-makers.

An Example from Exploration and Discovery

In 1766 the British Admiralty commissioned Captain James Cook to command voyages into the unknown southern hemisphere.  This led to him ‘discovering’, surveying and mapping lands previously unknown to the northern hemisphere.  Fundamentally, Captain Cook needed the skills of a navigator.  He also needed those who would commission him and trust him.  He needed people of foresight and vision to support him.

Foresight in Leadership

So, consider this: wise business leaders will be people of foresight as they wisely and courageously look beyond themselves and their operational context.  They will commission those who will navigate change.

What are Your Priorities in Leadership?

Considering your own view of leadership attributes, what priorities do you give to

  • The planner – the person who is great in the ‘known world’
  • The navigator – the person who can deal with significant levels of uncertainty
  • The person of foresight – the one who can envision what might be?

It is my argument that right now, there is wisdom in foresight that enables those who will navigate these uncertain times.  Let me ground this argument in practical experience.

An Example from Our Journey

Fifteen years ago, I set up Innovation People as a research-based consultancy in order to explore new approaches in the development of people and organisations.

Over the years we’ve worked with a great many organisations, in the UK and beyond.  We’ve worked across all sizes of business and all sectors.  We’ve worked with universities and taught at masters level for many years.

Encouraged by people of foresight, we have developed unique resources that connect people to their development and performance, enabling businesses to promote the ongoing development of their talent whilst also keeping their people on the job, wherever they are.

Essentially, we have created tools for navigation, for keeping businesses and their people on the move and developing, wherever they are and in challenging times.  They can be accessed by anyone through simple and affordable bundles of applications.  You can check them out at

Perhaps critically for businesses right now, the SPICE Framework tools integrate the ongoing assessment and development of people, along with the evaluation and impact assessment in a single environment anyone can access.  They literally put into the hands of wise business leaders tools for navigation in challenging times.

We think what’s been created are important resources for businesses in challenging times, but…….

Don’t just take my word for it.  Consider these quotes:

  • ‘The Covid 19 crisis has significantly changed how we work and encourages many to look at their own development.  It has shown that we can’t rely on traditional methods and we need to move to any time, any place learning.’

CIPD – Accenture, Learning & Skills at Work 2020

  • ‘We will face new challenges in the year ahead as we help people learn about hybrid workspaces, build more inclusive organisations, create business growth, tackle the climate emergency, grapple with new technologies and bring displaced workers back into work.  Learning never stops.’

CIPD – Accenture, Learning & Skills at Work 2021

  • ‘It’s fair enough to continue to use the language of ‘knowledge, skills and behavioural development when it comes to people. It’s just that we need to reimagine how that development happens and how businesses can reap the benefit in a world that has forever changed.’

Michael Croft, Innovation People Limited, 2022

We’ve created resources to support wise business leaders seeking to do things differently and to respond to the challenges we all face.

Written by Michael Croft

May 26, 2022