“Trust…but verify.” The phrase famously used by US President Ronald Reagan at the 1986 Reykjavik Summit, serves to illustrate that a counterintuitive tension is often the most effective way to break down barriers that prevent progress. This type of wisdom is now commonplace in business, aided by the growth of technology that gives confidence to efficiency arrangements between established partners.
Drawing inspiration from the ideal of trust, Jozef “Jos” Opdeweegh, a seasoned C-suite executive with over 20 years of experience developing, leading, and growing public and private global companies, shared his insight on what teams can do to foster their relationships and excel in an environment that supports further progress.
As someone with a true passion for talent development and business transformation, Jos Opdeweegh has demonstrated and repeated success in complex business and cultural transformations where strong teamwork mechanisms are essential. His commitment to finding the right balance in his work has been fundamental in the striking success of his career. This balance has come from finding enough room for both innovation and data to grow together and complement as a one…rather than siloed approaches.
“Fresh thinking is essential to human flourishing”, Opdeweegh assured. “Without it, we stagnate, our horizons narrow and in business, our competitors overtake us”. For Opdeweegh, when innovation becomes absent or curtailed by strict guidelines and dogmas, there is more likeliness for the environment to feel enclosed — or immersed in the ‘dark ages’ as he pointed out — and stagnant from new fresh ideas.
But the reality is that when it comes to our own circumstances, creative leaps can be scary, evoking the sequence of “disruption, resistance and uncertainty” which characterized progress in the scientific and industrial revolutions. Today, that same pattern continues, most obviously in the digital sphere, which has supercharged the speed, reach, and risks of creative innovation.
It is a mistake, however, to think of creativity purely in terms of inspirational genius. Opdeweegh has closely observed patterns of creative pioneers and leaders in various industries such as the prominent engineer and inventor, James Dyson, whom he recalls pointing out that “practical progress is seldom made in the manner of Isaac Newton under the apple tree”. Rather, it’s an iterative journey, which sharpens our notions and intuition through a process of trial and error. For Opdeweegh, Dyson’s brilliance isn’t just his creative vision, it’s also his commitment to testing, adjustment, and utilizing data to analyze and solve problems.
Opdeweegh also agrees that achieving progress is often subtly different than reinvention, and it requires a blend of aspirational and logical mindsets.
“Under this model, the creative and analytic approaches work together to make marginal gains with measurable impact by repeating the process time and again,” Opdeweegh noted. “I’ve seen this in practice, and would observe that the most analytical people I’ve worked with are among the best innovators, while almost all creatives I know are deeply analytical in their approach.”
Moreover, Opdeweegh also remarked how Dyson allowed innovation to flourish under an atmosphere of creative tension, where ideas are robustly and competitively challenged, in pursuit of a common goal. For Opdeweegh, he agrees to this proposition after experiencing this firsthand with his teams who have most effectively come up with the most productive ideas when being subject to the same standards.
The relevance for business leaders is that innovation works best when creativity and analytics are integral to, and not isolated from, the day to day realities of the organization.
“Analysis is, therefore, the bedfellow and not the bugaboo of practical creativity,” says Opdeweegh. “By measuring and learning, not only do we sort the wheat from the chaff, we also help the good become great – or more often, just that little bit better.”