By: Neal Rothermel, principal officer of VMS BioMarketing and executive in residence at the Indiana University Tobias Leadership Center.
This article was first published in the Northwest Indiana Times here.
Leaders face more intense pressure, complicated problems, and more global challenges than ever before. The amount of change will continue to compound and accelerate for the foreseeable future.
How are we, as individuals, going to process all of the changes, let alone spearhead our families, teams, and organizations through turbulent times?
Darwin’s theory of evolution tells us it’s not the strongest or the smartest of the species that survive, but those that are most receptive to change. He observed that creatures on small islands under harsh circumstances evolve faster than other species. With exponential innovations on a global scale, our planet is now a small island under extreme and unrelenting stress. We can’t rely on forecasts or the strength of institutions for our survival, but we do need to have the skills to ensure we can anticipate and adjust to the tsunami of changes transforming our environment.
Our natural response in the face of ambiguity is to hunker down and resist new ideas. In his book “Unlocking Creativity,” Michael Roberto cites the research of professor Jennifer Mueller, who showed that people value practicality over creativity when faced with uncertainty. Our tendency is to become more closed-minded and negative at precisely the time we should be more flexible and open to trying new experiments. Fear impedes creativity and our environment can influence our response.