I’m excited to introduce a new podcast series that I’m co-hosting with Vivek Wadhwa, who is a technology entrepreneur and academic based in Silicon Valley.
The podcast takes its name from our new book,“From Incremental to Exponential - How Large Companies Can See the Future and Rethink Innovation”. We believe that the need for legacy organisations to innovate rapidly has never been more urgent, and that the upheavals we’ve seen during the Covid-19 crisis are just a taste of the disruption to come.
During each episode, we’ll be exploring the themes of the book with a well-known guest from the worlds of business and leadership. These inspirational leaders will share their personal stories of overcoming challenges and making major changes in their lives and businesses, as well as their insights into how the way we live, work and learn is set to transform in the future.
For our first episode, our guest is Bear Grylls, the adventurer, TV presenter and now co-founder of BecomingX. Bear is the epitome of resilience and courageous risk-taking, and a worthy first guest as we explore the success factors that make great leaders and can help large organisations survive in this time of exponential change.
So why is resilience so important? Research has shown that aptitude and skill aren’t the most important factors for success: it’s often people who are not the most talented who succeed because they are determined and able to bounce back from adversity — in a word, they’re resilient.
Many people, including some who are very talented, give up at the first or second hurdle. It takes resilience to shake off failure and keep coming back. Now more than ever, as the pandemic throws more and more challenges at us, we need it to keep moving forward.
So how do we become more resilient? As Bear says, resilience is like a muscle that can be trained. If you start with small challenges, “baby steps” as Bear calls them, and practice overcoming small setbacks, over time you will become confident that you can succeed, even if the path isn’t smooth or straightforward.
For Bear, that meant challenging himself as a kid to keep going as the climbs he did with his dad got tougher and not giving up when he initially failed selection for the UK Special Forces. He had to dig deep to find the courage to keep moving forward with his climbing career after four fellow climbers died on Everest and when so many of his big mountain ascents failed.
Part of this process is becoming accustomed to being uncomfortable, to being stretched to your limits and beyond. As Bear explains, “the more we go through failure and hard times and not quite making it, the more we get used to that and we don't get scared by that kind of gut feeling”.
Having been up close with so many inspirational leaders and high performers, we asked Bear what empowering leadership looks like, and what skills and qualities are needed for leaders to build resilient and innovative teams.
A big theme that came up around leadership was courage and appetite for risk, something that Vivek and I strongly believe is what the leaders of large companies need today. Leaders need to be adventurers like Bear, or they’ll “fall off a cliff”, as Vivek likes to say. There’s no point in sitting around waiting for entrants and disruptors to take you down — leaders need the courage to reinvent their companies before they become irrelevant, and to inspire their teams to dream big.
We also spoke about the attributes of resilient, future-ready people and organisations. At the individual level, the three vital factors are digital skills, creative thinking and being socially and emotionally adapted to the ‘distance economy’ that we now find ourselves working in. For organisations, the touchstones are a sense of purpose, clear structures for rapid decision-making and a culture of accountability without the fear of making a mistake.
So, what’s next for Bear Grylls? His focus right now is BecomingX, a learning and development company that aims to demystify success and help young people to achieve their full potential. Building self-belief is hard for young people, who face so many challenges and setbacks like bullying and abuse, and that’s been exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis, which has isolated children and reduced their ability to access support.
BecomingX is one of our partners, and it uses compelling films with leaders, sports stars, artists, CEOs, humanitarians, and many more to help inspire young people and equip them with the skills, knowledge and attitudes to succeed. It plans to reach schoolchildren in the UK and in developing countries, online and through in-school programmes when that becomes possible again.