One of the biggest challenges leaders face in traditional Hierarchal structures is having the awful burden of always having to be right and always having the answers, creating a culture where it’s very difficult to say, I don’t know.

The reality is with the pace of change today it’s impossible to know everything. To predict every new trend and anticipate every new disruptive technology.

Look no further than the music industry when iTunes hit, Blockbuster and the movie industry when Netflix went live. Amazon, shaking up everyone in the distribution space. 3D printing. Disruption is all around us.

As such it’s more critical than ever for leaders to create an environment where great ideas can come from anywhere and anyone, or as I like to call it, tapping the collective consciousness of the organizations.

Some organizations are doing this by leveraging technology like social enterprise platforms and crowdsourcing ideas from people throughout the organization.

These are great tools and there are plenty of case studies showcasing their power but there are low tech strategies individual leaders can do to tap the collective consciousness of their teams.

One exceptional leader that is embracing this is Brian Parks, the Director of IT for USAA.

Besides overseeing IT, Brian runs USAA’s internship program, a program that brings in a couple hundred college sophomores and juniors every single year.

In the final two weeks of the 10 week program Brian pulls all of the interns in and literally says…. alright gang let’s blow this thing up and start from scratch. You’re going to create next year’s program from the ground up.

What did you love? What needs to be improved on? How can we make it better? This is your creation.

The interns work in teams to come up with new ideas and at the end the program they role out on stage and present their ideas to the entire executive team.

What’s interesting to me is the fact that it would be easy for Brian to present these new ideas. I mean this is his program. He’d look like a creative hero to his bosses.

I asked him during our one on one interview, why don’t you deliver these new ideas to the C-Suite??

Brain’s response, “Bottom line it’s their ideas, it’s their innovation, my job is to empower them to make it a reality. It’s all about stepping back and letting them shine.”


So let’s breakdown what’s happening here…

Brian’s delegating some of the responsibility of keeping the program fresh. He’s empowering these kids. They’re on cloud 9. Something else is happening though; Brian is also educating his executive team on the workforce of the future. They’re getting a front row seat into the minds of their new talent. Keeping them relevant and well equipped to lead a next generation workforce.

Now picture that whole thing paying out – how does that change culture? How could you use that in your own company?

For example, what if you took everyone that’s been recently hired and asked them, in the first three months what’s the most frustrating thing you experienced when it came to communication? What was the worst part about the hiring process? The review process? Etc.

<!-- /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:Arial; panose-1:2 11 6 4 2 2 2 2 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-536859905 -1073711037 9 0 511 0;} @font-face {font-family:"Cambria Math"; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-536870145 1107305727 0 0 415 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";} p.MsoListParagraph, li.MsoListParagraph, div.MsoListParagraph {mso-style-priority:34; mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; margin-top:0in; margin-right:0in; margin-bottom:0in; margin-left:.5in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:"MS 明朝"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} @page WordSection1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;} -->

It’s so scary to ask those questions.

WHY? Why are we so afraid to ask these questions?

We’re afraid the boss is going to say, “I thought you invented that program? Isn’t it YOUR job to know these things?

However, a fundamental shift is taking place today, “in the networked world its not your job to know it’s your job to get it done.