What does it mean to create a workplace where teams are empowered to experiment?
The Forum One leadership team has been thinking a lot about this question. I recently had the opportunity to discuss it with some amazing communications leaders on a panel at the 2023 Mid-Atlantic MarCom Summit.
Creating impact on behalf of our mission-driven clients continues to be our number one goal as a company. Having recently stepped into the CEO role, I’m focused on building an evolutionary organization that helps our clients navigate the complexities of digital change and create solutions that advance their missions.
Challenging the status quo
This means challenging the status quo and being the best advisors to our clients that we can be, prioritizing excellence and impact in everything we do.
We can’t do this without cultivating and enforcing a corporate culture of psychological safety: an environment where no one will be punished or shamed for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.
We want to be risk-takers in pursuing our clients’ biggest goals and want our team to be proud of the work it does every single day. In service of this, we are actively trying to create a space for everyone to bring their full selves and their full potential to work and feel accepted and respected.
Balancing structure with experimentation
Looking ahead, we’re designing ways to put the right amount of structure around the process of experimentation. Even though “structure” and “experimentation” may seem at odds, a systemic approach ensures that every team member has a pathway to success. Beyond simple brainstorming, we need to intentionally create the space for all team members to act on their ideas in a productive, measurable way.
Some of the ideas that we’re experimenting with to find the right balance are:
- Dedicated meetings or days specifically for brainstorming and testing creative solutions to company challenges in a fixed time frame.
- Clarifying decision rights, e.g., who has the authority to greenlight an experiment or implement a proposed change? (hint: this shouldn’t just be people at the top).
- More flexible project scopes that allow iteration on project teams within certain constraints.
- Mission-based teams charged with solving a specific problem but have discretion over how to solve it.
- Clear channels for raising new ideas to leadership and feedback loops for learning from things that we’re trying.
Ultimately, it takes courage to develop an untested idea, express concerns to managers or clients, or challenge existing assumptions. I feel strongly that it’s the role of leaders to support our people and model by doing. This is the only way our teams know they can try new things.
I’m excited to bring this courage into the work we do every day on behalf of our truly inspiring clients working to solve some of our world’s biggest challenges.