Lift & Tilt Podcast – Episode 016 : Innovation Efforts & Chaos Pilots

Host: Kurt Guntner

Overview: Kurt and Mandy discuss a Harvard Business Review article about transformational teams for innovation and how certain personality traits make some employees better fits for innovative projects. Find out how to identify chaos pilots for your team in this new episode from Lift & Tilt.

Innovation Efforts & Chaos Pilots

1) What is a chaos pilot and why are they crucial?

Chaos pilots are people who can creatively lead a project through uncertainty. They have negative capability, but they also have other critical skills, such as the ability to create structure within chaos and take action. Leaders who are chaos pilots are able to drive a team forward on a project even as the environment around them fluctuates.

Although it may sound glamorous to be such a person, being a chaos pilot is hard — they are the colleagues working on ambiguous projects and frequently getting beat up in the process. People who aren’t capable of being chaos pilots quickly flounder when the environment around the project gets shaky.

Chaos pilots often care more about creating meaningful change than about climbing a corporate ladder or getting another star on their charts.

2) What is negative capability?

In the modern context, negative capability can be thought of as the ability to be comfortable with uncertainty, even to entertain it, rather than to become so anxious by its presence that you have to prematurely race to a more certain, yet suboptimal, conclusion. Whereas many people cannot stand the fuzziness of uncertainty, those who demonstrate negative capabilities can facilitate the exploration of new terrain and the discovery of an adjacent possible opportunity.

Individuals with negative capability remain curious and focused even when your project is far from the end goal. Chances are, they will even find this point of the project enthralling, rather than overwhelming, which is exactly what you want. They will also be able to suspend judgement about an end result and stay open to many possible outcomes, rather than become fixed early on to one version of success.

3) Where can you find chaos pilots?

Finding chaos pilots to join you can be challenging and requires observation and experimentation, though there are a few fertile places to look for good candidates.

For example, look for people who are getting mixed performance reviews, but who are still highly prized by the organization. Often, these people are getting mixed reviews because they make those around them uncomfortable — because the potential candidates often challenge the status quo — but they continue to succeed, because they perform so well.

Sources:
Harvard Business Review | If Your Innovation Effort Isn’t Working Look at Who’s on the Team
https://hbr.org/2018/11/if-your-innovation-effort-isnt-working-look-at-whos-on-the-team

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