This is how you turn obstacles into innovation

Crisis management

Crises often ultimately lead to new thinking and innovation. However, the prerequisite is that the managers understand how each individual team member reacts to the challenge and can handle all the reactions.

In this article, we will figure out how to turn challenges into effective solutions and contribute to growth, even during periods of economic and social upheaval.

The problem with fixed mindset

Crisis at the office
Crises can create serious obstacles to development and growth if managers and teams are not ready to think creatively

In the West, companies usually perceive crises as an unfortunate development of circumstances, while in Asia they have a different perspective on the matter. In Seong Jeong, researcher and professor of management at Lingnan University, highlights that the Chinese word for “crisis”, Wéijī, is a paradoxical composition: wei means danger and jī means opportunity.

This inspired In Seong Jeong to develop a theory of threat-rigidity, which he published in the Journal of Management. While working on the theory, he asked 800 employees in 150 different teams to think about how unexpected changes in work can contribute to innovation.

The study showed that a crisis only leads to innovation and creative solutions if the team changes its perception of the situation. Another important condition is that managers show understanding of how employees react to crisis-related events.

According to In Seong Jeong’s theory, organizations often react slowly and sluggishly to crises. In response to challenges, tools that have worked in the past are used, and managers often stand in the way of more modern solutions.

In previous crises, the company may have brought in extra staff and increased the number of working hours to save projects. Today, people have access to more efficient organizational methods, for example tools that automate business processes, but still often fall back on old tried and tested solutions and opt out of new alternatives.

In Seong Jeong calls this model fixed mindset. It prevents the organization from adopting new working methods and slows down the company’s development. Employees who are stuck in old thought patterns are also more likely to suffer from stress when faced with unforeseen changes. They feel more secure with established, familiar work processes. Often they are too focused on the managers’ demands and their own productivity and find it difficult to see the problems from any other perspective.

Anti-fixed mindset

The opposite of inertia and fixed mindsets are employees who are focused on growth. They believe that one can always improve their knowledge and skills. Such people experience a positively colored stress when they encounter unforeseen problems. It motivates them to broaden their horizons and seek new, more effective methods to find a way out of the crisis.

According to Jeong, unexpected events and crises – from unplanned meetings to pandemics – are not a problem, but an opportunity if you are not stuck in old routines and fixed ways of thinking. Employees who in such situations do not get stuck in old patterns, but come up with creative solution ideas, are beneficial to the entire company.

Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford, writes in her book Mindset: you become what you think that the tendency to fixed mindset can be deciphered. If you identify a person’s intellectual activity and ability to learn, you can predict the person’s future behavior. Carol Dweck points out that flexible and agile thinking begins to take shape long before we start working. It starts already when you start school and realize that success can be achieved by putting in more effort and acquiring useful knowledge and skills.

But it is never too late to change one’s view of development. First of all, you have to change your strategy from “judge and be judged” to “learn, learn, learn”. And one must not forget that the pursuit of growth requires a great deal of time, effort and support.

When leaders turn crisis into innovation

Creating solutions
A fundamental prerequisite for efficiency is trust between management and employees

In Seong Jeong believes that managers must set a good example for employees to grow in crisis situations. They must show how to turn challenges into an opportunity to use their creativity. If the manager shows his subordinates that it pays to take strategic risks, the employees worry less and dare to try creative methods in situations that do not have a given solution.

Managers trusting their employees and allowing them to experiment is a decisive factor in successfully overcoming crises. The reverse also applies. If employees feel that managers trust them, they are confident that they have support, no matter what problems arise. It gives the company a healthy culture that rests on conscious trust.

In Seong Jeong’s conclusions are confirmed by the study “Choosing to grow: The leader’s blueprint” from McKinsey & Company. It showed that managers who set bold and effective goals, while cultivating a creative and trusting culture, exceed company development goals 2.4 times more often.

To sum up 

A reliable support for this type of teamwork are modern cloud-based platforms for project management such as Asana. With Asana, managers can coordinate the work of different groups, follow how ongoing processes are progressing and get a clear overview of analysis and results. At the same time, team members have the opportunity to share ideas and experiences, propose solutions to problems and coordinate with everyone involved in the project.

If you need a simple and convenient tool to do your work efficiently, Swedbyte will be happy to help you adapt the settings in Asana, so that you get the most from the tool.