Wild Ducks and Wild Duckness

September 26, 2016, 10:46 am
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We’ve looked at high performance through the lens of the “T shaped innovator”. The requirement for innovators to not only demonstrate technical, functional and domain specific skills, content, and knowledge – the vertical stroke of the T, but also to possess those cross functional/cross cultural, people interaction, and thinking skills – the horizontal stroke of the T. Skills like continual learning, teaming, and creative approaches to problem solving.

“T” ness is more important than ever in the fast changing world of today and is even more critical for those involved with innovation. One aspect of “T” ness that is often a challenge to getting to high performance is that of the organisation’s approach to nurturing Wild Ducks and Wild Duckness!

What are Wild Ducks?

The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote a story about a wild duck (a goose originally but over time, the story has morphed into a duck!). There are several interpretations of the moral of the story but what we took from it is that individuals, teams and organisations can:

  1. decline from ideals and become satisfied with lower standards
  2. and/or become satisfied with the status quo

“A wild duck was flying northward with his mates across Europe during the springtime. En route, he happened to land in a barnyard in Denmark, where he quickly made friends with the tame ducks that lived there. The wild duck enjoyed the corn and fresh water. He decided to stay for an hour, then for a day, then for a week, and finally, for a month.

At the end of that time, he contemplated flying to join his friends in the vast North land, but he had begun to enjoy the safety of the barnyard, and the tame ducks had made him feel so welcome. So he stayed for the summer.

One autumn day, when his wild mates were flying south, he heard their quacking. It stirred him with delight, and he enthusiastically flapped his wings and rose into the air to join them. Much to his dismay, he found that he could rise no higher than the eaves of the barn. As he waddled back to the safety of the barnyard, he muttered to himself, “I’m satisfied here, I have plenty of food, and the area is good. Why should I leave?” So, he spent the winter on the farm.

In the spring, when the wild ducks flew overhead again, he felt a strange stirring within his breast, but he did not even try to fly up to meet them. When they returned in the fall, they again invited him to re-join them, but this time, the duck did not even notice them. There was no stirring within his breast. He simply kept on eating the corn.”

Kierkegaard’s point is that you can make wild ducks tame, but it’s far more difficult to make tame ducks wild again.

We are convinced that organisations need Wild Ducks and Wild Duckness – especially those in a fast moving competitive market place.

The so what?

Click here for a great video about Wild Ducks from IBM and the implications, including a story about Seeds of Change.

http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/ibm100/us/en/films/wild_ducks.html

3 of the wickedest (you can see them all here) challenges are:

  1. Balancing long-term goals with short-term demands.
  2. Predicting the returns on innovative concepts
  3. Innovating at the increasing speed of change – organizational agility

Do you think there may be a link between this idea of Wild Ducks/Wild Duckness and these 3 challenges?

The RSA competitiveness study that researched the UK’s three biggest hindrances reported complacency and ignorance as the #1 factor.

Do you think there may be a link between this idea of Wild Ducks/Wild Duckness and complacency and ignorance?

From the world of high performance, we know that: Performance = Potential less Inhibitors. P = p –i. Your or your organisation’s performance = your organisation’s or your potential less the organisation’s or your own inhibitors.

Do you think there may be a link between this idea of Wild Ducks/Wild Duckness and inhibitors?

Now what?

Ask yourself – are you a Wild Duck? Do you still have Wild Duckness in you? And what do you, your team, and your leaders do to nurture Wild Ducks and Wild Duckness?

If you want to start or to strengthen your Wild Duckness, what would you do?

Kierkegaard’s point is that you can make wild ducks tame, but you it’s far more difficult to make tame ducks wild again. We are convinced that organisations need Wild Ducks and Wild Duckness – especially those in a fast moving competitive market place.

Do you and your organisation try to tame them?

Enlightened organisations promote dissent and diversity of opinion as sources of long term resilience.

Does your organisation encourage high levels of challenge, debate, and risk taking? Or are these said to be welcomed, but in reality are unwelcomed – especially by senior management?

Challenge, debate, risk taking, conflict and trust are some of the dimensions of workplace climate and next month we will explore more about the climate for innovation.

PS:  We believe Jeffrey Hyman is a Wild Duck. What do you think?

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