Stage 4: Challenger Safety
Am I Challenging the Status Quo?
What is Challenger Safety?
Challenger safety satisfies the basic human need to make things better. It’s the support and confidence we need to ask questions such as, “Why do we do it this way?” “What if we tried this?” or “May I suggest a better way?” It allows us to feel safe to challenge the status quo without retaliation or the risk of damaging our personal standing or reputation. As the highest level of psychological safety, it matches the increased vulnerability and personal risk associated with challenging the status quo. When we create challenger safety, we give air cover in exchange for candor.
WHEN YOU HAVE IT
Challenger safety provides respect and permission to dissent and disagree when we think something needs to change and it’s time to say so. It allows us to overcome the pressure to conform and gives us a license to innovate and be creative.
WHEN YOU DON'T
If your team never asks questions such as, “Why do we do it this way?” or “What if we tried this?” than your organization will always be stuck in the same failure patterns. You will fail to innovate at a pace fast enough to keep up with your competition.
Challenger Safety at a Glance
Definition of Respect
Definition of Permission
Respect for the individual's ability to innovate.
Permission for the individual to challenge the status quo in good faith.
Air cover in exchange for candor.
The Process of Innovation.
Innovation is embedded into every job because really only two things occur in organizations, execution and innovation. Execution is delivering value today and innovation is figuring out how to deliver value tomorrow. There are two types of innovation.
The first type of innovation is incremental and derivative innovation. Incremental represents the small steps based on what organizations have already accomplished or are accomplishing, and derivative means that the innovation is built and based on what industries are already doing. The majority of innovation (in fact, 99% of it) falls under incremental innovation.
The second type of innovation is radical and disruptive, and it covers the risky and cutting-edge ideas and experiments. All other innovations fall under this category.
The goal of an organization isn’t necessarily to have radical new ideas, but to continue to get better and providing value to their customers. It can happen in big leaps but almost always happens in small incremental steps over a long period of time.
Increase Intellectual Friction and Decrease Social Friction.
Intellectual friction is the raw material that you need to solve problems, to create solutions, to make breakthroughs, and most importantly, to innovate. You want intellectual friction to be as high as possible but, at the same time, you've got to keep the social friction down. If you let the social friction rise as the intellectual friction is rising, you're going to have a problem. At some point, the social friction will shut down the intellectual friction. Why? Because social friction means that we are getting temperamental, we're getting defensive, and human beings have a tendency to do that.
Formally Assign Dissent.
The enemy of innovation is the homogenization of thought. How will you protect against it? You must assign dissent. Formally assigning dissent allows groups to identify and see their own flaws. By doing so, they are able to then innovate and improve their entire structure. Ultimately, the best practice is to assign team members to take a dissenting position from the beginning. Formally assigning dissent from the beginning allows individuals to trade personal risk for institutional permission.
Tiger Teams (NASA)
Red Teams (Silicon Valley)
Pre-mortem & Mid-mortem
White Hat Hacking (IT)
Apply the Disruption Question Sequence.
There are two kinds of inquiry used in organizations: The first kind is explanatory inquiry. Explanatory inquiry explains cause and effect relationships. It identifies what is happening and what has happened in the past. The second kind of inquiry is exploratory inquiry. Exploratory inquiry is about the future and identifies what could be done, what is possible, and what should be explored.
Applying the disruption question sequence allows for inquiry in organizations and consists of three parts:
1. WHY? [The “why” question activates the process.] ---------- “Why do we do it this way?”
2. WHAT IF? -----------------------------------------------------------“What if we tried something else?”
3. HOW? ----------------------------------------------------------------“How might we do that?”
By asking these three questions, leaders signal to their group that there are no limitations or constraints in challenging the status quo. The disruption question sequence is the heart of innovation, and it fuels an organization’s ability to engage in divergent thinking and developing Challenger Safety.
Do You Create Challenger Safety?
It’s time to take a step back and look at your own life. Ask yourself these questions and evaluate how you are doing to create Challenger Safety around you.
Do you allow others to challenge you?
Do you give them a license to dissent and disagree?
Do you get defensive or take things personally when someone gives you constructive feedback or suggests an alternative course of action?
Do you maintain your poise and composure under pressure?
Can you tolerate a high level of candor?
Can you really debate issues on their merits in a stress-filled environment and not resort to personal criticism?
Can you bring humility to your team interactions and lay down all of your ego defense mechanisms?
Can you keep the intellectual friction up and the social friction down?
Are questions welcome on your team?
Do you feel the risk of ridicule on your team?
When was the last time you were brave and challenged the status quo?