Alan Arnett and The Exploration Habit: “Simplifying Innovation and Change”
Alan Arnett, the Director of The Exploration Habit, talks to Finance Monthly about helping leaders to stretch beyond their experience and really make a difference. Innovation and change get interpreted in many different ways. What are the real situations your clients face that you provide hands-on help with? I help people with a familiar […]
Alan Arnett, the Director of The Exploration Habit, talks to Finance Monthly about helping leaders to stretch beyond their experience and really make a difference.
Innovation and change get interpreted in many different ways. What are the real situations your clients face that you provide hands-on help with?
I help people with a familiar challenge – how to keep the current business performing and improving, while also changing and innovating for the future. It’s a difficult balancing act. These days clients often have challenges around digital technologies, but situations can involve making anything new happen: strategies, products, services, JVs, M&As and more. The key thing I help with is getting the most impact and value from the activity. I find three things make a big difference:
How people approach risk and decision-making. People are used to managing in consistent ways, to plan the future and avoid risk. But too much consistency is itself a risk in a fast moving world. Managing risk needs a dynamic balance between enough structure to operate well, and agility to explore and learn what else is possible. I show people how to flex between both to make better progress.
How people handle differences. Under pressure, most of us don’t work as well as we think with people who see the world differently. Whether that’s internally across siloes, or externally with start-ups, suppliers, JVs, etc, there’s a lot of frustration and blame going around. I show people how to shift the conversations to speed up alignment.
How people show up. In the end, organisations are simply a lot of people trying to make a difference, and the pressures, risks and disagreements create stress. We tend to hold on to what has always worked before, and do it harder and faster. I show people how to build resilience and have more impact on the things that matter.
You say that ‘progress is not always about trying harder. It’s often about trying some new things.’ – do you have examples of when this has worked?
Two examples spring to mind. One was a company with successful business units who were disconnected and missing opportunities for cross-selling. I coached some leaders first, and then we got people working together on new projects. In the process, we uncovered new opportunities and grew sales considerably. Another was a global merger, where a friend and I created a 3-day workshop to accelerate the integration of multiple business teams by several months. Both examples are about getting people doing the new things quickly, and learning it feels OK, rather than hesitating.
If you had to point out 3 things a client looks for in your services, what would these be?
I think number one has to be that I’ve been in their position and faced similar challenges. I’ve been part of the more familiar ways of trying to make innovation and change happen, and I’ve kept exploring and experimenting with simpler, better ways I can share.
Second is that what I offer uses proven science and research, but I started life as a very practical engineer, so I’m slightly fixated on finding smart things you can do now to change your existing reality and move it quickly in a better direction, not some grand plan or strategy that won’t survive contact with a fast-moving world.
And finally I ground everything I do at the human level. Technology is making many things possible, business is moving quickly, and that takes its toll. I’ve had my own reasons to want to find ways to stay more grounded and resilient over the years, so I know the research and what it takes at a personal level. I think I’m lucky to get to share some short cuts with people.