We are glad to have Path Forward’s Jim Hessler join us again in January to offer his insight about the month’s topic, Eight Practices for Creating a Smarter Organization: How Your Leadership Adds IQ Points and Generates High Performance.
In previous Excell programs Jim Hessler presented the 15/50/150 model and explored our roles as “CCOs” or Chief Communication Officers. In January, he will explore with you another related transformative role, that of “CLO” or Chief Learning Officer. As the Chief Learning Officer of your organization you create engagement as you increase the quality of dialogue, strategizing, and problem solving in your organization
EXCELL: As a CEO, how does being a successful Chief “Communication” Officer translate to becoming a successful Chief “Learning” Officer?
JIM HESSLER: I see these as extensions of one another. The desire to be a great communicator implies a trust that employees will perform better when they are fully informed. The Chief Learning Officer role is just a formalization of practices designed to bring out the best talents and highest levels of engagement from all employees. Of course, if you’re not communicating effectively you haven’t created the most important foundation of learning.
EXCELL: Can you measure a company’s “collective intelligence?” If so, what are some measurements?
JIM HESSLER: I don’t know of a metrical way to measure collective intelligence. As an observer, what I would want to see is the degree to which people ask great questions, think broadly about the business, have the time and energy to think creatively, and challenge one another’s unquestioned points of view. I would want to see an organization that adapts and evolves as a measure of their collective intelligence.
EXCELL: When we say that a company can grow its intelligence, is that like saying companies are akin to a living organisms — insomuch that it has the ability to adapt, study, and become smarter? What are some ways one person (the CEO) can encourage all the people in the organization to participate?
JIM HESSLER: Yes, as to the point above, I think the living organism is a good metaphor. Evolution means we don’t care too much about our past and are constantly looking for ways to positively exploit the conditions in which we operate – or to change those conditions entirely if necessary. What can the CEO do to encourage this development? Other than hiring smart people I would say there are four ways in which the CEO can create a culture of learning:
— Personally model curiosity, openness, objectivity, and enthusiasm about experimentation.
— Share a lot of information; I believe transparency is directly related to collective intelligence.
— Facilitate dialog rather than focusing on “telling.” A great CEO leaves their ego at the door and is willing to learn from their organization every day.
— Give people opportunities to be smart by asking them to tackle interesting challenges, and giving them the time to do so. This may mean spending more money on staff to create thinking and planning space, which is sadly lacking in most organizations.
EXCELL: How does a company’s mission play into improving company IQ?
JIM HESSLER: Well I guess I’d say there are some pretty stupid mission statements out there — bland, unoriginal, uninspiring. If people’s hearts are engaged they will want to engage their minds. Creating a mission that means more than adding shareholder value or making great widgets is important. If you’re running a coffee shop, your mission should be to make the lives of your customers more pleasurable, interesting, and convenient. I think the employees of a coffee shop are likely to think more creatively about the business if they believe the mission is something other than selling more coffee and putting more money on the bottom line. So yes, the mission is important for many reasons, but please help your employees find some reason to engage their brains other than making more money for you!
Thanks, Jim, for taking the time to talk with us today!
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