The Critical Inflection Point

May 28, 2014

As the rate of change increases in speed, you may notice that your company is at a critical inflection point. This is a moment in time where something bad might happen if the organization does not stop to think.

There are many reasons for it – you’re growing fast, you’re thinking about a new product, you’re expanding your offices, or your staff is frustrated and wants change. These are all good problems to have. But if they’re not addresses, then the wheels could fly off the machine.

I’ve noticed that a critical inflection point often happens when there is a tension between competing values. For example, you want to be nimble and quick, but sometimes it’s at the expense of quality. So you try process and procedures, but it comes at the expense of innovation and experimentation. You want your staff to be empowered but the autonomy means that costly decisions may be made without you.

So how does a company stop and think? How do we leverage the power of the group without devolving into group think, confusion and inertia?

I’ve found that the answers are always within. I recently lead team meetings for Intuit and Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project, and using a format called Open Space Technology we were able to use the right amount of structure to allow the group to self-organize, focus themselves and take action. Many said it was the most productive time they had ever spent with the company.

Whether you have a facilitator like me, or study Open Space on your own, here’s what you need to know: All the knowledge and answers are within your current staff and resources. We are quick to look for solutions, but they are always found within the problem itself. As Einstein said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”