Seeing value in the unexpected can help business leaders navigate uncertainty

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In his leadership skills course that is part of the MBA program at the Schulich School of Business, Professor Ingo Holzinger discovered participants were increasingly asking about how to cope with volatility in business – the lingering fallout from the financial crash of 2008 when business as usual ceased to exist and turbulence and transition became the new normal. As he modified the course to respond to this trend, he found the material really resonated with his audience. In order to share the new best practices for managing uncertainty with a wider audience, he and colleague Professor Detlev Zwick have created a new three-day SEEC program titled, Leading in a Turbulent World.

Ingo Holziner photo
Ingo Holzinger
Detlev Zwick photo
Detlev Zwick

“People now have the perception that the world around us is unpredictable,” he says. “Management is all about  predictability and control, and it became clear that there are things around us we can’t control.” To address the paradox, this new program, part of the Reach Series for senior executives, is designed to show the benefit of uncertainty, if you can learn to embrace it, and recognize value in unintended outcomes.

In a presentation to SEEC alumni recently, Holzinger recounted a case study of a telecommunications service provider’s employee who went “off script” responding to customers about a serious system failure, only to become a social media sensation that boosted the company’s reputation in the middle of a customer satisfaction crisis. The lesson learned was that viewing the problem through a different lens helped turn a problem into an opportunity. This is what the course is designed to do.

“The way value is created and captured is changing,” says Holzinger. “Continuous innovation, operational dexterity, co-creation of products and services with customers and even competitors, and the emergence of platform-based business models are all changes driven by increasing turbulence and complexity.”

Based on insights from complexity science, Leading in a Turbulent World looks at how multi-faceted interactions in a business environment produce unexpected outcomes that have hidden value. The program is designed for experienced executives looking for new ways to view their role, not as infallible “experts”, but as facilitators who can enable creativity and innovation by tapping into the variety of perspectives that exist in an organization.

Examples of today’s complex issues include external challenges such as industry mergers and new foreign competition, competitive product and service innovation, technology, automation and manufacturing shifts, rapidly changing marketing, sales and social media channels, increased regulations and business risk, changing customer demands & demographics.

The program, which runs from April 9 to 11 and again from October 29 to 31, 2018, combines a series of mini-lectures with group work on a case study. Participants are also invited to join a follow-up coaching session, six to eight weeks after the program, to discuss their progress and pose further questions to the instructors and fellow participants.

For full details and to register, visit the program website.

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