today's questions, tomorrow's answers

Futurethink Blog

Leadership Development through Action Learning


What accounts for the discouraging rate of leadership failure? Primary among the various explanations for the difficulties leaders face is the reality that organisations are encountering change at a staggering pace and on an unprecedented scale. In order to survive leaders must navigate systems in which the landscape is ever-changing; in which events are often unpredictable and chaotic behaviours becomes the norm.

According to leading Action Learning practitioners Marquardt et al. (2009), there are four leadership competency clusters that are believed to be critical for the success of any enterprise in the 21st Century:

 Cognitive skills. Skills and competencies in this cluster include seasoned analytical skills, strategic thinking, creativity, and global perspective.
 Execution skills. Skills and competencies in this cluster include customer focus, planning, program management, and focus on results.
 Relationship skills. Skills and competencies in this cluster include influencing, engaging and inspiring, managing talent, creating open communication, collaborating, and building relationships.
 Self-management skills. Skills and competencies in this cluster include the ability to establish trust, adaptability, impulse control, and curiosity and love of learning.

Solving complex organisational problems requires the use of all of these competencies at one time or another in the problem-solving process.

There are several key questions in the context of leadership development that requires further thought namely:

 What leadership development method or programme will be most relevant and effective in terms of developing leaders?
 What should this leadership development method or programme contain in terms of focus and content?
 How should the leadership development method or programme be delivered?
 What format and structure should the method or programme follow?

Action Learning as a leadership development tool develops the collaborative and shared leadership skills that are necessary for high-performance teams and organizations.

Everything in our lives begins with a thought - what we think determines who we are and how we develop as leaders.

The quality of our thinking is influenced by the quality of the questions we ask – both of ourselves and of others, and as leaders we will find the right solutions by knowing what questions to ask. Great leaders have discovered the amazing power of questions as questions stimulate new ideas; they help to discover new ways of doing things; they facilitate understanding that we do not know everything and that we do not have all the answers.

Improving our ability to think more strategically, ask great questions, generate meaningful options, take action and reflect on our efforts and learning experiences and those of our leadership team will help organisations develop into a great leadership team.

Great questions define great leaders. Asking rather than telling; questions rather than answers; has become the key to leadership excellence and success in the 21st Century, and Action Learning is a great method for developing effective leaders.

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FutureThink Launch Blog July 2011


The Perfect Wave

Many surfers spend their entire lives searching for the perfect wave. I guess the same applies to researchers, whether quantitative or qualitative we are all looking for something different; some way of proving that we have found the Holy Grail of research. Sometimes research models are highly complex, while other times they are relatively simple in design, but they are all striving to create deeper insights into understanding the mind of the market and thereby create their own relevant advantage as a research tool.

But what about the client - what does a client want from a researcher?

Kobus Badenhorst posed some interesting questions in his paper entitled Rediscovering and Rethinking the Foundations and Key Development Events in the Market Research Industry and the Implications of how Market Research is conducted and Managed Today, which was presented at the 32nd SAMRA Conference South Africa in June 2011.

One of these questions was What do you believe are the things that will define the market research industry in the future? His research results indicated that it appears that the biggest influence on the future of the market research industry will be integrity, credibility and transparency as well as the ability to provide context to research and extract deeper insight. While I conform totally to the focus on integrity, credibility and transparency, I believe that with the increasing development of modern technology, that there is a need for a greater integration of shared knowledge between neuroscientists and marketing researchers. Neuroscientists have made amazing strides in recent years in understanding how the mind works and yet there are many who resist these developments in the field of neuroscience and hold on to traditional methods of research.

In recent months I have noticed an awakening again to the value of qualitative research, especially in terms of the value of online qualitative research.

My own personal fascination with the workings of the mind and my passion for qualitative research, particularly the study of deep metaphors, prompted me to enter this sacred and all too often avoided segment of the research industry through the launch of FutureThink. The idea for FutureThink which was born out of a few simple questions that I asked myself more than six years ago. The questions that prompted my thoughts at the time were:

  • If most of our thoughts occur at subconscious level, why are we addressing our marketing research questions primarily at a conscious level?
  • If deep metaphors play powerfully yet silently in the unconscious minds of consumers, and there are relatively few of them and they appear to be universal; how can they be leveraged to evaluate and test new concepts, identify how, what and why, people feel about specific issues, products, services and brands in particular?
  • How could I develop an online research tool that reaches into the subconscious mind of the consumer that will provide a meaningful picture of their thoughts and feelings

These questions started my quest to develop a simple, affordable, yet effective qualitative online research tool, which gave birth to Brainspade. I hope to develop this tool even further so that it will make a meaningful contribution to the research industry and to our further understanding of the remarkable workings of the mind and to the understanding of human behaviour.

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