Something widely spoken about in leadership circles, best-selling books, podcasts, and so on, is this concept of “hire smarter than you.” It’s a great approach, and one that our highest version of Self subscribes to, but it tends to fall into the category of things we believe in concept but often fail to live in practice.

As humans, we are conditioned to survive, naturally consider “what’s in it for me,” and protect our egos. Therefore, we may be willing to “hire smarter,” but many times only if we view those individuals as non-threating to our current state. But when we open our minds to understand how our ego creates limitation and barrier to innovation—and most importantly learn how to move around our egos—we start to cultivate and nourish truly smart teams. Teams that leverage the best of technology and the human mind to reach the next level of innovation.

As we assemble smart teams, and celebrate everyone’s hyper-specializations, inherent talents and diversity of experience and perspective, we need to also lean into courage and vulnerability around how we ideate. One of the first places this begins is with us getting comfortable with breaking up with our ideas, just as fast as we originated them.

This is not easy! It’s something I work on every single day. I condition my mind to be equally as comfortable volleying a new idea as I am with breaking up with an idea, particularly if a new, more evolved one comes along. I get curious about my ego when I feel it showing up and resolve to push it aside, recognizing that my idea may not be the best one but maybe my idea launches someone else’s capacity to come up with that next idea. Maybe a crumb of my idea makes it into what is next.

(I recently dove into this and the connection to vulnerability with Claritza N. Abreu, technology evangelist and Principal Solutions Architect at Google, during a video chat. You can watch it by clicking here.)

As leaders, we have to remember that it’s never about us or any individual. Rather, it’s always about the team. The future of work is all about teaming, of fundamentally shifting the ways we accelerate, collaborate, innovate, digitize, and execute. It requires us to recognize the quality and unique skill sets of every member and prioritize holistic—not individual—design. The quicker we learn to break up with our ideas and intentionally create space for others’ ideas to soar, the quicker we accelerate our growth as organizations.

Here are a few things I lean on to help me sharpen this muscle:

  • Embrace the Challenge: The future of work requires us to strengthen our adaptability. We need to realize that when we make a mistake, our value is not diminished. Instead, we have afforded the opportunity to hit the stop button and ask, “What did I learn?” Breaking up with our ideas is a really great way to visualize the power of the word adaptability.
  • Collaboration as the Option: What if we broke up with the idea that we could singularly do anything? What if everything we did, we had to do through collaborative partnership? The greatest innovation and disruption ever accomplished has always been a result of a team environment and our formation of super teams. But super teams cannot form, sustain or work if you think you are the only one worthy of contributing.
  • Ego-Less: There is no room for ego in the future of work. We need to shift our mindset from “what’s in it for me?” to “how can I create value and impact?” When you are focused on how to create lasting impact, the “what’s in it for me” becomes a byproduct of that behavior.

One of my favorite podcasts featured Jeff Schwartz as a guest, a principal with Deloitte and Head of Future of Work for the US, and he said we are at the end of the beginning of the “future of work.” I couldn’t agree more.

We are operating in a new cycle without a roadmap. We are being asked to unlearn what we previously learned; to take risks to volley ideas but then be just as open to evolving those ideas; to constantly be improvising, shifting and developing… the list goes on.

If we spend less time holding onto original ideas, we increase our velocity to get to the best possible pathway. And when we do that, the next destination becomes significantly more fulfilling and impactful.


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