3 Box Leadership

At last year’s Leadership Summit, one of my favorite talks was from Vijay Govindarajan, a professor at Dartmouth and author of Beyond the Idea: How to Execute Innovation in Any Organization. He talked about his understanding of what innovation is and what it’s not, using a simple 3 box framework for decision making and focus:

Box 1 – Managing the present (efficiency, operational excellence, six sigma, etc.)

Box 2 – Selectively forgetting / abandoning the past

Box 3 – Creating the future

He remarked that strategy is learning to adapt and change for the future.  While most leaders would say that they are focused daily on strategy, Govindarajan says that is not true – that most leaders live in box 1 and that strategy lives in box 3.

What does this look like in your sphere of leadership and mine?

I tend to focus a lot on box 1.  That’s my sweet spot, and I understand how to do it.  Box 2 is hard and not always popular (especially in the church world!), but necessary as we do what Jesus taught and seek “new wineskins” to put new wine in.  Box 3 though – that’s hard leadership.  And it’s really, really hard to be good at all three boxes.  I’m sure not!

At SCC, I work with an awesome team, and every team members has different strengths.  I think that’s critical to making sure all the bases (or boxes) are covered; otherwise, you’ll just stay in the box where you feel the most comfortable.

In your organization, which box is where most of your time is spent and decisions are made? Do you have an intentional plan to make sure all three boxes are covered? 

P.S. So we’re getting ready for the launch of LEAD next week, and I mentioned a while back that if you subscribe to the blog between now and April 30, I’d enter you for a chance to win a free signed copy of the book.  I’ve had a bunch of new people sign up since then, and I thought I’d mention it again in case you missed it the first time. You can subscribe using the signup box on the right side of the blog’s home page.