Friday's Growth

We all have an intuitive connection to growth. It is a relationship that needs little introduction – we see it in nature, in the people around us, we recognise it when it appears in us. We celebrate it…sometimes on our own, other times with significant others.

Growth is one of the least understood concepts in management practice. This is largely due to the mindset we assume when we think about growth. Hence, the title for this week’s growth inspiration – Growing Deep.

The traditional view of growth in management circles (and often well beyond these) is that growth happens upwards. With that, a number of myths have developed, for example, that growth is a continuous, smooth process – the best companies are those who exhibit a predictable upward growth trajectory – the graph curves predictably up and to the right, our minds connect the dots and find comfort in the simplicity of it.

One of my early mentors in the study of growth was Dr. Ichak Adizes, the founder of the Adizes Institute. In the 1980’s, he espoused a contrarian idea about growth, one that was founded in the depths of leadership and focused on discontinuous periods of transition. Growth, I learned, was not about ‘Growing High’ but rather ‘Growing Deep’, and such growth, the kind that emerges first on the inside, that leaders can feel before it is visible to the world, takes roots in periods of discontinuity, when the current management model, current practices and our conventions about how we grow from here are often in flux. As a student, I found it a novel idea. The fact that these transition periods require a different leadership capacity and realising that only by shifting to a state of deep learning, I could understand failed growth attempts, opened my mind to the power of growing deep, before we grow high.

I spent much of that year completing my thesis on what seemed to be something I knew was true, though very few people would agree with me on (including my Professor, who was not easily impressed). In the years since, I have come to realise how important it is to recognise the depths required of us, to grow and welcome the ‘messy spaces’ within which growth and opportunity resides.

I find the present time such a fitting setting for thinking about growth. Not ignoring it, in the name of short-termism, the call to first contract, stabilize, only then think about what really happened and where to next. Instead, we should relish growth, especially in times where it seems so difficult to attain. We should seize the opportunities created in discontinuity, in the realignment of the current order and recognise that growth starts deep within ourselves. It is a privilege to be part of creating the new…

I hope you can take a quiet moment to recognise what stirs within you, as we begin to emerge from the crisis. What opportunities do you seek? What invitations can you say Yes to? Within this space, you might just find extraordinary growth and the seeds of future success.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Saar Ben-Attar (Chief Instigator) 

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“It takes real commitment, especially after you’ve arrived at a position of power and responsibility, to push yourself to grow ad learn, to question the ideas and assumptions that made your career in the first place. [Such leaders], as interesting as they may be, are determined to remain interested, in the enduring mission of their enterprise and all the new ways to bring that mission to life”
From Personal Renewal, a speech by Stanford Professor, John Gardener, November 10, 1990.