Leadership-Marcus Dimbleby: Thinking differently - the essential capability of true leaders.

Marcus Dimbleby
Marcus Dimbleby

We hide behind comforting lies in so many aspects of our lives, fearful of facing the hard truths, not even trusting ourselves to do so, let alone others. Many businesses die because of self-inflicted wounds, lying to themselves for so long that it becomes their reality. To survive, leaders need to think differently; to thrive, they need to enable their people likewise.

In this session

  • The leadership challenge in a VUCA world.
  • Why critical thinking is critical!
  • A brief history of Red Teaming
  • An overview of the science and psychology behind this revolutionary capability
  • An introduction to the tools and techniques that enable applied critical thinking
  • How to enable critical and contrarian thinking without fear of reprisal
  • Realization that new Ways of Working require a new Way of Thinking

On 11 November 2021, we hosted our first virtual conference with a great lineup of speakers, here is the second session Thinking differently - the essential capability of true leaders by Marcus Dimbleby

About Marcus Dimbleby

A former military officer and red teamer, Marcus retired from the Royal Air Force in 2013. In the RAF, he did multiple joint tours with the Royal Marines, Royal Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, with whom he deployed to Iraq in 2003; he was also a member of the Special Forces Air Cell. In his final tour, he worked closely with the Cabinet Office and SO15 to create and execute the air security plan for the 2012 London Olympics. After leaving the RAF, Marcus moved into business, initially working for a global consultancy, before moving on to lead major business transformations in the financial sector, focusing on engaging leadership to deal with the complexity of today’s business environment, and enabling people to reclaim the role of thinker.

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The transcript for Thinking differently - the essential capability of true leaders by Marcus Dimbleby

Nader Talai: Next speaker is going to be Marcus Dimbleby. We worked together on a joint client for a while and learned some things from him. Also, I've been following him since, about his new work that he's doing, not new to me, not that is new to him, about Red Teaming and how we confront the truths that we shy away from and how, as leaders, we want to encourage those and be also listening for those things.

As you can see from his bio, he's an ex-military officer from the Royal Air Force, retired in 2013, which is a few years back now. I think that's when we formed Value Glide. Not that there's any coincidence there. And he has obviously been one of the people who served the country and, as I said, at 11, we will take a break.

We will have maybe silence just to pay our respect to the people in the Armed Forces, past and present. So without further ado, I'm gonna hand over to Marcus. All of these sessions are great for me because I'm learning a lot and I want to learn a lot more about what Marcus has to say. Marcus, the floor is yours.

Marcus Dimbleby: Thank you, Nader. Great to see you again. Memories of our times together. 

So we're here today to talk about thinking differently, which I believe is the essential capability of the true leaders, which is what we're here, to discuss leadership in turbulent times.

As Nader said, my background.. I've got quite a checkered past, a 20 plus years in the Royal Air Force, did lots of different jobs within that. I got bored quite easily so I hopped around the tours with the Army, Navy Royal Marines and got an exchange tour, the US Marine Corps in 2000. So I was there for 2001, 9/11.

I ended up deploying to Iraq as a US Marine, with a Union Jack on my arm. And that's where I first really got into Red Teaming, which we'll be covering later today. I then left, as I said, in 2013, got into consultancy, large-scale transformations, moved through government and then got into sort of the financial services sector, became head of Agile at Lloyds Banking Group, rolled out a large new way of working there and then moved to Royal Bank of Scotland, now in NatWest group.

And since then, I've done work with HSBC, currently supporting BP and their enterprise agility. And then I set up a Red Team thinking with a gentleman called Bryce Hoffman, who is the author of the book "Red Teaming", which we'll be discussing more today.

I just want to start with this quote: the scale of the challenge we're facing today. Now it's moving too fast. It is revolution, not evolution. There are many accelerations at once. One of the biggest problems is the difficulty of mankind to cope with it.

I don't know where the political leaders or business leaders can easily handle it. Now, this wasn't something recent, given what we've seen with COVID. This was actually over three years ago and in comes the CEO of Centrica, which runs British gas utilities in the UK. Now, at this point, he was quite in a good position, they just made over almost half a billion in profit, but a year later, by almost a premonition of his own foresight, they lost 1 billion.

And a year after that, just before COVID kicked off, in March 2020, Iain Conn stepped down as the CEO of British Gas Centrica. So again, what he's saying here though, is that the challenges they're facing are beyond the wit of single individuals and the beyond the width of aboard. This now needs the wisdom of the crowd to enable, working through this volatility and complexity that we're facing.

And the super CEOs of the eighties and nineties are gone. They can't handle what we're facing today. And if we thought it was bad then we all know that everything has changed. VUCA, if you've not heard of it, we are Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity.

And we work with the exec MBA school at the National University of Singapore, Professor Char, and she's added H to this, hyper-connectivity. So everything is now happening at a hyper-connected speed and having massive global impact. And the question is:" Are we ready for this?" The few pictures on the right, they just show how our world is changing, not just through COVID, but through many different environments and reasoning because of that.

So question:" What's the number one challenge?" And if you just want to pop in chat, I have a think. What do you think is the number one challenge to enable in this business agility, this business change that we're looking for in today's modern complex world. Is it number one- skills capability, number two -leadership, number three- funding, number four- technology, or number five- methodology?

So just type into the chat and then, when you're ready, feel free to hit send. So we've got methodology, leadership skills, and capability, leadership, three funding. So again, a mixed spread and that's probably on your own experience. And for those who understand and read The Business Agility Report, this comes out from a BAI, Business Agility Institute, every year. And it's fantastic and, funny old thing, the reasoning for this was leadership in 2021.

Sorry, in 2020. In 2019 it was leadership, in 2018 it was leadership. Recently just came out delayed for the COVID this year. And leadership has moved down to number two. The reason number one is now in place, it's change fatigue. So there's been so much going on in the COVID year, people are now tired of change, and, I bet you anything, that next year leadership will back up to number one.

So the issues aren't Agile, as a previous speaker was talking about. It's a great tool and technique, and I love it, but it's the application of it through the leadership understanding of it, that's causing the problems to enable true business agility. And that's down to the leadership mindset. And when we say leadership, we're talking about the executive directors, upper level of organizations.

And the reason is because they have this institutionalized command and control culture, which again, as I mentioned earlier, is formed and come from the eighties and nineties of how business was done. And it's not that they don't want to change, but changing those habits is very difficult. Old habits are hard to break and to do that, they have to unlearn because I believe, as you can see here, you can teach an old dog new tricks, and there are ways of doing that, but it takes behavioral change before the mindset will change itself and we'll talk about that today. 

To control, for those in the Agile world, this is a sort of dirty phrase. More often it becomes command and comply: here's what we want. Do it how we say, do it when we say. And that all stems from these old-school behaviors that have been taught and learned through business schools in the last century. There's this inability to delegate to the next level.

Something in the military we talk about is mission command, where the general cascades responsibility down as low as possible so that decisions can be made in the quickest possible time but executives often have a real reticence to do that because there's a fear. There's this fear of letting go and trusting people to do what's needed and therefore we have this lack of trust. When we look at five dysfunctions of a team, the bottom foundation is trust, the next one is conflict. So we don't have trust, we, therefore, can't have healthy conflict, and, therefore, we can't obviously give challenges and debates to what's going on. But for me, I love command and control.

I was a command and control officer in the military and, the problem is, people, see them as welded together. And, if you actually take them apart and use the and in between them as a rubber band, you retain command, but you push control down to wherever it sits best in the organization where that control can be exercised. So you need command and control, but they don't need to be together at the top level. 

And as we're seeing today, and the majority of organizations in business in the world, in general, trust is breaking. And we see lots of polarization globally, nationally, and in with our own businesses more often than not.

So it's a problem. One of the great super CEOs of the eighties, nineties, and beyond- Steve Jobs. And it wasn't because he was a phenomenal individual, a great technologist, and innovator, but Jobs surrounded himself with phenomenally good people. And he then didn't tell him what to do.

He let them tell him what to do. Get smart people on board, surround yourself with awesome teams and empower them and enable them to get on with doing what you've hired them for. If you don't, you very quickly lose the trust.

So we've got new ways of working. Agile arrived on the scene, Lean, Six Sigma, Kanban, Scrum. All of these great things arrived in the last sort of 20 years, but more and more predominantly last 5 to 10 years, we've taught digital transformation.

And what we've seen, with a great sort of gadgets and tools and ideas come out The Agile Onion from AWA. And it's great. Simon Powers created this and and it's great when you look at it and it's lovely and organizations adopt this and go:" great, we're agile now, we're doing this". But when you look at these things on the left, the key things that make it work, as we've talked about, is mindset shift. Less visible, more powerful.

However, we really start to unpack this and see what goes on. All we're doing in business is tools, processes, and practices. The mindset, the values, or principles aren't really there when you do the scrutiny. Because, if you look at the right, they're difficult, they're hard to do. And if you look on the left, they require soft skills.

Hard skills, technical ability, what we're trained to do, but the soft skills, the empathy, the leadership skills we need, are lacking. And therefore those top three levels of the onion don't really get done. And therefore, if you look at the bottom, we can see that these are adopted in a command and control culture.

So, while we think we're being agile, we're not. We're still staying in that command and control culture mindset. And then stick ourselves in the middle of all these new ways of working, and this is 2016, 5 years old. One of the few good things that a big consultancy has done, was create this. It just shows the myriad of ways of working that are out there and it's no wonder that executives are confused. They're sold them all through shiny brochures from consultancies, they're all excited about them and then they start doing them and very quickly it's appropriate, it's a train map because the wheels come off very quickly. And both, Nader and myself, I've seen this in many organizations and, in all of this, there's no Red Teaming, there's no thinking. Design thinking, on the far left, it's about as close as you're gonna get. But if you look at the poor leadership on the top that's all that's been offered. So it's no real wonder why there's a myriad of issues going on amongst this myriad of different ways of working. It's confusing. Add to that, the cults that then get formed by this. Then you can start to see why Agile starts to very quickly come apart. 

And by no surprise, new ways of working don't work. It's not me being a cynic, it's a fact. Over 70% plus of Agile business, digital transformations, call them what you will , are failing.

That's proven facts and there's documents and reports out there across the world. And it's not because of Agile being a bad tool but it starts to get blamed for that, as I mentioned, it's the application by leadership. 

So what to do? Here's a chap, Alistair Cockburn. He was one of the authors of the original manifesto and this is just causing some good chat going on Twitter. Highlighted in red:" The human component take up half the manifesto and are left out of most snap definitions of Agile."

Again. Another good chat going on, this was three weeks ago. No worries, everything else suffers the same because its processes and tools over everything else. So, while we say we are being Agile, we're actually not even doing Agile. We are going back to the old school, bottom level of the onion, processes, and tools. Because that's where the comfort zone sits and, when you think about it, old school project management, people, process, technology. And, for some reason, that has been inverted over time with the digital era, to be technology, process. People? Maybe.

So we're not focusing on what we should be, which is the people element of this and as highlighted.

Again, I'm not making this up. There are the four 50% individuals and customer who invariably come last when you start talking and looking into what's going on in most Agile organizations. 

Why is this important? If you look at this, why businesses fail? All the reasons on the left. We did this with a workshop the other night and came up with another 37 reasons afterwards, of which three were external. The commonality here is all of these are internal issues. So while organizations make excuses for the economy, the competition, the environment, blah, blah, blah, it's the internal behaviors, it's the bureaucracy, the red tape, the way you operate that's causing your business the problems it faces today. So you've got to get over these before you start doing things. And the most important thing here is poor decision-making. Someone said yesterday: well-intended but poor decisions are often the pivot and turning point for these individual organizations going off a cliff. As I tell most of my clients, and we work with the full spectrum, the beauty about Retsim is agnostic to any sector without working with fire department, NATO, a big business, banking, oil and gas, nurses, it's irrelevant. Whatever business you're in, I've yet to meet one that isn't , you're in the [00:50:00] people business. And if they've fallen off your radar, if you've lost that lead singer and you've gone with process and technology instead, then you are on a hiding to nothing. And ultimately the wheels will come off your train at some point. 

And despite all these ways of working, despite the promises, you may get from whatever consultants or executives you're talking to, and they will tell you what you want to hear, there is no silver bullet. There's nothing off the shelf, there's no tools, no individual is going to come in with a silver bullet and fix all of your problems. This has to be viewed holistically. 

Few questions to ask within your own organization, to get an idea and sense of where you're at. How innovative are you? Does your culture allow people to speak up? Our executive ideas and strategies allow us to be challenged. Is there a desire for that? Or is the fear factor at large? Is there an old boys club operating across the top of your organization? I do a few blogs on what I call "Spawns": the stale pale, all-male. 97% of CEOs and boards are still stale, pale, all males. We're trying to make that shift, we're trying to get that agenda balance, we're trying to make diversity of thought a thing, but it's still predominant. Dinosaurs are still roaming the corridors of power and they cascade fear down through organizations.

I've seen it. I've sensed it. I've written reports and read about it, but these executives, there: do they have imposter syndrome? Many do, many are winging it, many are faking it till they make it, as we used to say in the military. And they're under-confident in their position because they've gone through the Peter principle. They've got to the top because they were great at delivering. Doesn't make them great leaders or managers. And then, diversity inclusion, to get this great diversity of thought group of individuals, we have these wonderful human resources policies. But again, when you look at them, then variably just a quota-driven tick box agenda.

, we have X percent of A, Y percent of B. Then, when you go talk to these diverse groups, I say "Hey, how are you feeling? Are you included?". " No, not really". " Really?"." No". I'll fill the seat and what I call tokenism and the despair of those individuals who've been brought in with the expectation of being included ( they're not really) but the DNI policy says they are. So are you doing these things? Because when you've not, you start to see the people elements start to be eroded very quickly. And, as Nicholas phase in the chat, customer, and colleagues are often missed out. Absolutely. These companies that say, oh, it's all about the customer. No, it's not. It's all about our colleagues. No, it's not. At least Richard Branson doesn't care about the customer and he states that. He cares about his colleagues, his employees because it's their job to care about the customer, not mine. I look after them, they look after the end of the game and we've worked with companies and we'll talk about it in a moment. These customers are starting to say clients as like customer first and the CEO will go:" Do we really mean that?" "Cause if we don't, let's stop saying it and focus on what we do mean because again, it's part of the lies we tell ourselves". 

So we've got all the new ways of working, got all these tools that are phenomenally capable. However, we're lacking skills to apply them correctly. 

This has come out from McKinsey this year. Again, some of the good things that these consultants do is these data analysis and reporting problem solving, critical thinking, innovation, creativity. It's no surprise that two of the biggest hashtags on LinkedIn are innovation and creativity. 36 million-plus. However, it's the most lacking skill out there.

Problem-solving and critical thinking. Problem is, with that, we all think we are critical thinkers. We're not. We all think we can solve all problems. We can't. I'll evidence some of that today. 

And here's why. As I mentioned earlier on, we need soft skills, 85% requirement of soft skills to get on. This is from a Harvard business review study, from 2015. To get to those executive positions, you need soft skills. But what do we do? We recruit for hard skills, we interview for hard skills. The training budget, there's another sign diagram of this, which shows how much we spend on training.

85% of our budget gets spent on hard skills training. So it's the absolute inverse to what is required for us all, as humans, to bring people back into the business. So soft skills are required, especially in the VUCA world we're facing today. As I like to say, 21st-century ways of working do not work with 20th-century ways of thinking. And that's where we're stuck from a mindset perspective.

So it was like good friend, Einstein, would say, we need a new way of thinking. We need to be able to question everything or, as we'll talk about, maybe it's an old way of thinking. This gentleman here was one of the original. Socrates is obviously the granddaddy of original thought, 400 BC but in 1587, the Pope here, Pope Sixtus, he created the office of the devil's advocate. So when people go:" you can't use a devil's advocate, it's offensive to religion". I said actually the Pope created it. And he was getting overwhelmed at the Vatican in 16th century with all these people wanting to get canonized, to be Saints because obviously, you've got money, you've got support for all these great missions and miracles you were doing around the world. And they were queuing around the square. And he's like: " this is enough, set up the opposite devil's advocate to challenge these people". And they had to fill a form out and they had to complete and validate what they were doing. And funny, old thing, within a year, 70% reduction. Because they were calling things out and being challenged and if you're not challenged, if executives are allowed to roll out strategies and plans that aren't challenged, then we know what happens. The majority fail. And it's no surprise why. 

For 300 years, Adam Scott, Scottish philosopher, convinced us (Adam Smith, sorry), convinced us that we were all rational human beings. The way we thought was rational unless we were overwhelmed by emotional massive data input, but he was wrong. And then Daniel Kahneman came along, Noble Prize Laureate. He wrote a phenomenal book called "Thinking Fast and Slow". And he says:" our brain is a machine for jumping to conclusions".

I love that. We're not rational at all. And, as human beings, thousands and thousands a day, transmitting between areas, jumping all over, depending on the receptors that we're receiving data through and into. And he came out with two types of thinking: system one and system two thinking. What did he mean by that? 

 one on the left: 95% it was used all the time. It's fast, automatic, unconscious, error-prone. This is how your brain is wired. It's because, when we were born, millions and millions of years ago, we were out roaming the plains, scavenging for food and feeding the family. We were there to avoid the saber tooth tiger, the wooly mammoth, the threat.

So we had to have this instinctive survival instinct. However, that hasn't changed. The brain is the most unevolved organ of our bodies, in all that time. System two, however, as we can see here, is slow, effortful, logical, conscious, and reliable. How many executives want you to apply system two thinking? How many leaders want you apply this?

None of them. Because they've got the slow word in there. We need to be agile. We need to be fast, speed is key. Can't slow down and think, surely not. People sat at the desks doing nothing?! "What are you doing?"," I'm thinking!" Well, get bloody working!" Not good enough, right? It's not what we need, we need system two thinking. And to prove this, you may have seen this before, so don't give the game away, simple maths. A bat and a ball together costs £1.10. The bat costs one pound more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? So write your answer in chat. Don't hit SEND yet. I'll give you a countdown of 5. 5,4, 3, 2, 1, hit SEND.

So £1.05 for the ball, 10p for the ball. Anyone else? 10p, 10p, 10p. Great. So far nobody's got it right. So it just proves the point that your system one thinking brain took over. You have no control over that. Or you do, or I can teach you how to. But your brain took over by default. A pound. They're still coming in and they're still wrong. Keep going. Don't feel bad. 80% of university students get this wrong. 50% of the executive MBA program at Harvard, Princeton, and MIT got this wrong. And this isn't a trick question. It's not a riddle. It's a simple kids-level maths question but it's showing how your brain leaps to the [00:57:00] conclusion. Because it looks obvious, but it's not.

If you don't slow down and think, and I critically think (not how you think), this is what happens. The ball costs 5p. Well done, Mark! But I'm not giving you that because you've gone through my courses before. And as I said, it doesn't mean you're stupid, doesn't mean you can't do simple math, just means that your brain is doing what it's trained to do. We have to unlearn things now and stop our brains doing what they've been conditioned to do for years.

And you wonder why that happens? Biases and heuristics. You've probably heard of confirmation bias. It's come out as another great phrase in the last few years. Just a few here of the biases that are out there. And there are hundreds. Biases are things that our brain is conditioned to think a certain way because of the things we receive, our experience, how we understand, and heuristics, our mental shortcuts we create over time.

And there are so many affecting you all the time. If you don't think you're affected by biases, that's fine, but you don't have a brain between your ears. Statement of fact. Everybody is affected by biases and they're not all bad. Some are good, some are necessary, but you have to be conscious of them because as I've just proven, this is how they are affecting and messing with your mind.

And we see so many unconscious biases discussions today. Especially when talking about diversity, racism, sexism. All of these things we don't even know it's happening in our brains because our brains have been conditioned to think this way. So we have to unlearn these things. 

Add to this the obsession we have with speed. So, if your brain is allowed to think it's great, but if I'm stood over you with the cost, (like I did then with the bat and ball scenario), you got five seconds to come up with this. Found the executive of my team go right, got deadline till Monday, get it done, work the weekend, go faster. What's the velocity? Double it by Friday.

Wyatt Earp says here:" Fast is fine but accuracy is everything". This lovely phrase here in a gunfight, you need to take your time but in a hurry. Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast. And I've got a lovely saying of slow down to speed up. Taking that time to slow down, to recalibrate, will allow you to actually go faster. The time spent thinking is seldom wasted. And the executives still don't get this yet, today, on the whole. So they have to educate themselves, educate ourselves, and make this happen. 

And then another great phrase! This has been around since 1999, the wonderful Amy Edmondson, Harvard professor. This became a popular buzzword about five years ago when she wrote the book "The Fearless Organization". Now everyone talks about psychological safety. What is it? Allows you to come to work, be yourself, speak up, challenge, have ideas, and be heard. However, the majority, in organizations that we're talking about, have low levels. They have a culture of silence. People are fearful to speak up. There's Cassandra culture. You speak up, you are belittled, you speak up, you might get beheaded. You keep your head below the parapet and, by doing that, you are disengaging your people. We call it" sheep-like passivity" and then mediocrity becomes the norm.

And I was warned of this when I went into a big bank many years ago. I gave some big, full of effervescence presentation one day and the boss of it came up to me. He says: "Marcus, that was awesome!" He goes: " Just a bit of advice". He goes:" You'd be burnt out by Christmas and frustrated". He said:" Mediocrity is the norm here". He'd been there 30 years. So he knew what he was talking about. And I, very quickly, got that. So psychological safety is the thing. Sadly, for executives, it's a buzzword along with that other wonderful word, empowerment. They get thrown around like a cheap round at Christmas. 

Talk to executives: "So, tell me, talk about psychological safety in your organization, Bill". " Oh, we have it. And all my team are empowered"." Really? How do you know that?"," Cause I told them." " Great, let me go and talk to them!" And talk to the team: "Yeah, last time I spoke up, I lost my bonus for a year, Susan got fired, Bill got moved to a different department. We just keep our heads down and get on with it". Wow. What are you doing? Disengaging your people and allowing the processes to take over and none of those good ideas are surfacing. And the end game. 

Most businesses die from self-inflicted wounds and there are hundreds more here. There's just some big ones on the right. But all of these businesses shot themselves in the foot. They loaded their own gun and fired it at themselves over time. And often you don't even realize you're doing it. And that's the problem.

So this is why I believe we need something called Red Teaming. And we'll talk about that. " There's no chance of the iPhone getting any significant market share!" said Steve at Microsoft in 2007, holding up his Microsoft phone. I don't see those around much anymore. Now the red box, nor Netflix are even on the radar screen, in terms of competition. So, Jim Keyes, Reed Hastings went down to Blockbuster twice and offered them Netflix. And they laughed him out of the office. Twice. Who's laughing now? "I'm the king of Netflix!" Where's Blockbuster? Gone. These things weren't, as we call them, "black swans". They were face to face with these individuals, with the offers and opportunities and they ignored it through arrogance or hubris, through not thinking.

So what is Red Teaming? As I mentioned, it's been around for centuries. The evolution of it really hit after 9/11. Again, failure by the CIA, FBI, numerous intelligence agencies, outcome of the report was a "gross failure of imagination, a lack of thinking". So the military and the CIA the next day stood up. The CIA set up the red cells and the military formed the red team in university.

And the whole purpose of this capability was to have that deliberate challenge. Is the only method out there that states deliberate challenge. And that's the purpose. And they have a red team where you have a red team specifically challenging you, playing the enemy, if you will, red team versus blue team. But we don't think that works. We think the red team thinking with everybody thinking like a red teamer is far more effective.

So what do we think Red Teaming is? For us, it's the philosophy and the toolkit. It's not a methodology, it's not another thing to replace our job. I'm not selling anything else that stop all that, do all this. This is a philosophy, it's a belief, armed with some awesome tools and techniques. And say it's complimentary. This is going to make all the stuff that you have that's not working- work. Cause if we place them, it makes them work. And it's an old, new way of thinking. We've not made this up. This is centuries. And it's been used and evolved throughout those periods by very clever individuals. And it's the adaptive application of system two, as we talked about. Enables you to stop the system on overload and move to system two. Bring in applied critical thinking, the number one requirement of trained skill today, and allows you to mitigate groupthink. Sheep-like passivity and mediocrity we see.

It's a people-centric approach. It's a bit like the agile manifesto and was intended to be, but never transpired to be, as we talked about earlier on.

Our philosophy: we believe "most of us would rather seek refuge and comforting lies than confront the hard truths they conceal". We call it "the lies we tell ourselves". They hold us back. Talked about earlier. The organization that told themselves that they put customer first, it was BS. When the CEO called, then I said:" Why are we saying this? If we're not customer first, get it off of our website, change a lot of documentation. What are we first?" If it's Wall Street, put stakeholders and shareholders. What is it? Let's stop kidding ourselves because the more we kid ourselves, the more we're hiding behind things and not facing the problems.

And the reason is we all like the juice. We all like the lies, the gossip, and this is why fake news travels six times faster than real news. The cartoon on the right is actually a depiction of a reality. In LA they have two cinemas running with similar headlines of movies. The "Comforting lies" movie is sold out, the one on the right, the "Pleasant Truth", sold six tickets.

So again, the brain wants this kind of stuff to hear, to listen to the gossip and talk about it at the water cooler, but we have to stop it. Because it's detracting from the focus of effort where we need to be. 

And as I mentioned, World Economic Forum 2020, a year ago, put out a paper for the future of work. Number one: critical thinking and analysis. The most required and the most lacking. Number two: problem-solving. 97% of CEOs on Wall Street want critical thinking in their CVs from their hirees. They are lacking. They're not there. It's a skill that people don't have. Why? Because your brain is telling you already have it. You don't need to listen to Marcus, you don't need to think critically. You do this all the time. You're awesome. You're not. I'm not, trust me. I've learned so many of these skills. If I had only had these when I was with Nader at Lloyds, if I had these when I was in the military, I would've been a general by now. These are great tools that allow you, especially if you're a contrarian, especially if you'd like to challenge, and especially if you know you're right but you can't get it out the right way, without taking a spear, this is a great capability to allow you to do that. 

And here's why: another great Nobel Prize-winning individual, Thomas Schelling. I love this quote:" One thing a person cannot do, no matter how rigorous his analysis or heroic his imagination, is to draw up a list of things that would never occur to him".

Rumsfeld, unknown, unknowns. They're only unknown to you, they might be known to me. So if you get a team of people together, the wisdom of the crowd, somebody somewhere will know something you don't. And you'll never know it. It's just because the way your brain is. A great Chinese Proverb says:" None of us is as smart as all of us".

So if you sit there as a CEO thinking you've got all the answers or you have to have, you don't anymore. Have some humility and ask your people. We call ourselves the consultants. When we go into organizations, I tell them I have no answers for you. I'm not going to tell you anything about your business, I'm not going to give you any answers or solutions. I don't have them. And even if I did, I still wouldn't tell you. Because you have them, you just don't know it. We'll help you surface them, we'll give you tools and techniques that will allow these things to be surfaced and your people to be engaged because they've got the answers. Every person in your organization, there's a dormant superpower line within them to surface the answers that you need. They probably know them, they're just don't speak up because of the lack of psychological safety. So enable that and you're going to be off to the races in no time. 

Leaders have to ask better questions. Again, stop thinking you have to have answers. Ask powerful questions, beautiful questions, all sorts of terminology for these things, but ask better questions and you're going to get great answers from your people. And the fact you're asking them, they'll feel engaged. 

Really powerful. How do we do this? Enabling critical thinking, lots of different ways: training, teaching you how to do this, facilitating, taking you through a plan or strategy, using the tools, allowing you to get hands-on with them. Coaching, one-on-one coaching. We do a lot of executive coaching, one-to-one, enabling them to think differently and understand it. Presentations. We brief to a thousand colleagues. They had like a TEDx professional day, a couple of weeks ago, getting everybody into this. Mentoring. Absolutely. We did personal coaching, life coaching, going into organizations where we've gotten aware these are jigsaws because the organizations, that have worked really well with us, have all four of these. And the whole sort of outcome of this was that we expected to teach a man to fish, give him a fishing rod and let him go and fish, but they still want us to come back in for exactly that thing Andrew is mentoring. They're doing all this, still, but, every quarter, they'll go back in for a day or an afternoon, because also they say "we bring what's called *outsider insights*". Because of the agnostic capability, we are working with different organizations every single week. Full-spectrum. So I can go back to a bank next week and tell it what I was doing with some firefighters in Wyoming, two weeks ago. I can go and tell a nurse what I was doing with a CEO of an oil and gas company. And it's relevant because it's all about people. So helping them mentoring and supporting ongoing is this constant evolution of how we think and training our minds to think in a different way, constantly. 

So what needs to shift? You go in organizations, we've got chief culture officers, we've got the mindset manager." Shift these things, Marcus!", "Where do you want them? I'll pick them up and I'll move it over there. Everybody come on, give me help!" The Sisyphean pushing uphill of the culture of an organization. Culture doesn't exist. You can't find it, you can't see it. You just feel it and sense it. It's an aura and you don't shift it.

What you need to change first, our behaviors. And I can change behaviors in a minute. Don't believe you can't. You can change behaviors instantly. You look at David Marquet, " Turn the ship around", the submarine video. If you've not seen it, watch that. Instant things you do in behaviors change overnight across a whole crew of people.

When you change behaviors, that then start to have an impact on your mindset. So we talked about your mindset earlier, how you think. Shifting those biases and those heuristics through behavioral change allows your mindset to then evolve and start to move. Do that well across multiple people, then the culture starts to move as well. Then the behavior starts to change by default because people are safe, secure, happy, free, engaged, and it becomes this virtual circle that gets tighter and spirals upwards rather than the vicious circle we see in many going down. So it'll give you a free behavioral change right now.

Think-Write-Share, one of our most simple tools that we use and we use it in all of the things that we do. Real simple. What you do? Think about the question you're required to answer. Write down your answer, share your answer with the group. We call this stuff face palm coaching for a reason sometimes because we're with our team and halfway through they go like can't believe the teaching of this is so simple. How do I not know this? As Shelling said:" If you don't know it, you don't know it". What's the beauty of this? I walk into a room, I'm the leader, I'm the exec and I've got 10 people. I've got a question. Normally what we get is right. I've got this question. What I'm thinking is A. What you all think? What are they all gonna think? They're all going to think A, A, A, A, A.Or:" Hey, I've got this question. Let's brainstorm it!" Bob, the spring book, Susan, the alpha: "Oh, I know what the answer is. I know what the answer is". And Marcus and Nader, the quiet guys at the back with all the great brains and ideas, just sit quietly because we're introverts and we don't then speak up, we don't feel safe. And therefore you're not getting the best out of your people. If I go right: I've got a question for you all. Don't speak out, don't say anything. Here's the question I want to post! Take two minutes to think. Don't write your answer down, don't lead to the conclusion. Think about what I'm talking about here. Contextual, understanding. Get your brain engaged in the context we're facing, think about the question.

Now, everybody write your answers down. When writing things down again allows you to even further become more concise in your answer. Now, you've all done that great. Turn your paper over. I want to go around the room, one at a time. Nader, what's your answer? Normally,when I ask "Nader, what's the answer?", If I think I might be next, I'm still panicking about my thing I'm going to say. Because I've said it and I've written it down, I am now actively listening to what Nader is saying. So if you do this, everyone's now listening. 10 of us are now listening to at one output from Nader. 

Now, "Marcus, what's your answer?". And you go around the room and you're going to get 10 responses. Now you may get overlaps, that's fine. But what you're going to get is very good engagement from your people. You're going to get a lot of different answers, you may have the golden nugget in there. You've then got nine, ten different answers to meld together, to come up with a hybrid and therefore everybody feels included, everybody feels engaged. Even if you dismiss my answer, I don't care. I've had a say and I understand why it's been dismissed. And the power of this is insane. We worked with Eli Lilly last night, talked to one of their executives. She said," this is now in use everywhere". All of their meetings, it's on the wall: Think-Write-Share.

Another simple one: Nobody speaks twice before everybody speaks once. You stop the person who's giving the yabba, yabba, dib,Jabba. Zip it. You've already spoken. "Bob, what do YOU think? I've not heard from you". Thank you. "Susan, what about you?" "Now we'll come back to you. What were you going to say?"." Oh, I don't need to say it now because someone else said it". "Yes, thank you". Everybody gets a say so , again, is it from behavior to mindset or otherwise? Yes, change behaviors first, as I've just shown you. Behavioral change tomorrow, do Think-Write-Share in every meeting, as a leader. Your team will love you, you will get gold. Behavioral change will start to then shift, the mindset of those individuals is feeling safe. And, over time ,we don't have to do this anonymously. People will openly write on a board and then discuss it. But you use anonymity to start with, then openness, and then that builds and shifts people's mindset. 

So Red Teaming versus Red Team Thinking. If you have a Red Team, you'll have a group of individuals, normally doing it as a side of the best job. In the military they have specific Red Teams, but, in business, this is an additional job that you have. And you come together to be the Red Team when needed. And I'll sit across the sort of top third of the business. Dangerous. Great on paper, works well initially, but then very quickly become a toxic outfit. They get the God status, they become red police. Executives use them to can plans and bin them rather than enhance and enable them. So it very quickly becomes a toxic capability. And that's what Bryce was doing before I met him, was training Red Teams and businesses, went great; six months later, it's not working, this tool's rubbish. Same thing we heard about Agile. It's not that, it's the application of it. So we've got together and thought: "what do we do?" 

" Let's have Red Team Thinking!". And what do we mean by that? You don't need a Red Team, you need all of your people thinking like a Red Teamer. Think-Write-Share is Red Team Thinking, in its most simple form. And that way, you've got the full capability across the organization, you're developing trust, enabling conflict, the two foundations of dysfunctions of a team. And also, even if you're a phenomenal leader, there's a great saying:" A General can walk off a battlefield and the war is still won." Nelson got shot inbound the Trafalgar battle, and they still won. He'd enabled his team. I call it leadership stickiness. We worked with Alan Mulally, former CEO of Boeing and Ford.

The CEO of Boeing joined 9/11 from Ford when they were 12.5 billion in debt, and he's surfaced them both to be top level. Where are they both now? Boom crashed. Awesome leader who didn't enable the stickiness of his capability. But if you do this, all that red circles become mini capable leaders, then you are going to get great gold out.

So the solution we think with Red Teaming, Red Team Thinking, enable that psychological safety, engage your people. And we've got another dozen-plus tools that allow you to do this very quickly, instant applicability. Learn them this afternoon, use them tomorrow morning. Uplift their skills and capability that we talked about. Essential skills today, soft skills, critical thinking, problem analysis, decision making. Source the wisdom of the crowd, engage your people. If you've got a big organization, are you big guy? it's more than one of you use the other person's brain. Two heads are better than one, a thousand are better than two. Gives everyone a voice.

The fact that you just let someone speak and be heard, even if it's not actioned, we'll engage them 50% fold instantly. And they'll go home, chuffed to bits, and tell their partner, their wife, their mum, whatever they'd done today, they felt heard. And therefore, what you're doing now is allowing you to challenge the status quo, just like Socrates did, but you don't get killed for it now, and then we're bringing what we [01:13:00] call true diversity. Diversity of thought is the only diversity in organization's needs, but you get that through the diversity of your people. Then, an inclusion capability, "the how"; we all know "the what" and "the why" of this and we're working with the UK government right now to enable that diversity inclusion policy to become a thing, a reality. Because they know "the why" and "the what", but they don't get" the how", because the tools they're using, don't exist. And if they do, they're not working. Ultimately, we're here to allow you to make better decisions faster, which is what leadership needs to do today. Well-intended bad decisions may as well not be made.

What you can do right now? You think: share, leverage your collective wisdom. Give it a try, let the team speak. Challenge the assumptions you're making in your plans, in your daily decisions. Believe me, a one-page plan will invariably have 20 to 30 stated and unstated assumptions within it. An assumption is something that will likely become fact. Most assumptions, from an executive standpoint, are wishful thinking. Something that's wishful thinking that doesn't become a fact down range will derail your plan. And, then, derailing, contemplate what that looks like, contemplate failure. We do pre-mortem, we worked with Dr. Gary Klein, one of the world's [01:14:00] phenomenal human psychologists, who created pre-mortem 30 years ago. It still stands today.

Contemplate failure. It's not risk management, it's not what could go wrong. This has been a disaster. Why did that happen? Get your mindset engaged in that disaster scenario, then you will think very differently and then consider the alternatives. Be the Pope, be the devil's advocate, consider the alternatives. What could go wrong? What can we synthesize together to come out with a much better plan? 

Going back to the beginning, the scale of the challenge. This stands true. This is a crystal ball that he had, that he failed to react to. Let's not be in the same position as Ian Conn, understand that we can't do this alone, have some humility, understand what we need to learn. If you're not learning, you're not a leader, and then engage our people to get what we need. 

Because, invariably, you're probably going to find yourself stuck in the middle of this beautiful underground mess. And if you need help, it's out there. Your people are all around you and there are tools and techniques that can get you out.

Thank you. Any questions?

Nader Talai: So Marcus, here's a question for you. Obviously, the book is out there but how do we learn more about Red Team Thinking as opposed to creating Red Teams?

Marcus Dimbleby: Check out redteamthinking.com. So you go there on our training page, we've got open enrollment training classes, we have the boot camp. All of our modules are three and a half hours. The boot camp is a sort of overview, some simple basic tools, just to get your mindset into that. They run quarterly at the moment, next one's on the 1st of December. And then we run the masterclass series, which is seven core tools that follow on from that. They're on back to back every Wednesday night. We're just coming up to the end of the current one that finishes next week. And then from that, you get your certifications of Red Team Thinker. It's all CPD accredited, so you get 32 hours' worth of CPD credits for this. And then we've got advanced Red Teaming, which takes you into if you're asked to be a formal Red Team, how do you do that and do the formal lab briefing. And then for those who want to do this and join the business with us, we've got a formula credits, Red Team leader course. In businesses, we do the same training, but we enable what they're calling Red Team Champions and Advocates of this within their businesses to do that. 

Questions in the chat. Is there an easy way you Think-Write-Share in a virtual meeting? Absolutely. We were in London in March 2020, the week the balloon went up. So Bryce was supposed to fly back Tuesday, had to bring his flight forward before Trump closed the airports down on Sunday. So he flew out Saturday night and we'd just been together three months, we spent the morning on Saturday doing a pre-mortem. We said:" do we shut the business down now? It's been nice knowing you". Cause we were traveling around the world doing this face-to-face. And we said NO. I think right now, given what's coming, it might be quite important to enable critical thinking. So we decided to go for it. We spent two months pivoting online, creating a digital offering and all of our training is now delivered live, virtually, using Mural and Zoom.

And I have to say, pessimistic as I was to start with, it is now better than doing it in the classroom, purely because of the speed and the efficiency of the tool. So you can use Think-Write-Share on Mural, on whiteboard, on miro. You've got the anonymity option, if you need that, you've got the reveal afterwards, you've got dot voting, really powerful tools. I'm happy to talk to anyone about afterwards. We can really get you up to speed on these and everything we use with our client. Our last time we finished two weeks ago, they just bought Mural accounts for their Red Team now because it's so effective. So, really easy to use this online. 

Any tips on Think-Write-Share with teams of consultants, working with different clients? Yeah. Again, use the anonymity. If you're all working with a consultant, often, as I said I'm not panning them, but they'll tell you what you want to hear, they'll tell you what their agenda is. So use this to get your other people engaged. There's nothing worse, I remember this -Nader will contest to this one- being in an organization where a bunch of consultants are brought in and they come and ask you all the questions that you've been trying to give the answers to your executive and no one's listening. I'm like, why would I tell you something? Cause all they do: they get told the answers by the force, workforce, and then they just take them back to the executive and go "here's all the answers we found for you". " Hang on a minute, we said that". So it's really frustrating. You are working with consultants, use this and get other people in as well so you get blend of external because consultancies are great. They bring in external viewpoints and experience. Is it possible to intern? Drop me a line. I'm always helping people out wherever we can. We do this, obviously, in commercial, we've got four practices that we've set up. We run the Military Academy, the US University got shut down through budget cuts so we've got the Red Team Thinking Academy for military support, we've got a fire practice, a police practice, and a medical practice. So we help the three emergency services out as well. And as well as working in corporate, as well as doing open enrollment, we also do education. We teach at the Warwick Business School. I run their executive MBA program at The Shard with them. And we also work at the National University of Singapore with professor Shaw on their exec MBA program out in far East. So, as I said, agnostic. Someone's called this "The 80's Martini". Anytime, any place, anywhere. Really is that simple to use for anybody, executives all the way down to your newest intern, who has just arrived.

Nader Talai: Thanks for that, Marcus. I haven't been on your training classes but I can vouch that the online version of the classes are actually better. I'm like you, started as a skeptic, thought this it's not going to work. And now is actually, and it's not just us, the attendees prefer it as well. It's more flexible for them, it gives them more opportunities and you can be anywhere in the world. 

Marcus Dimbleby: Absolutely. We've got people flying from all over and work globally now. So I'm working with global organizations. We've got eight countries sat on one Zoom call with us. And one of the clients said:" the cost that we were actually going to do in Paris, just to fly everyone in there, hotels accommodation, was going to be triple what we were going to charge them". So the savings are great. We're flying out to Portugal to work with NATO in December, the week before Christmas and we were all like, wow, this is going to be new. We had guys out in Wyoming last week with the fire guys, and it's like really weird going back into the classroom. But we just got to adapt and adjust and make sure we're ready and capable to deliver, which we always are.

Nader Talai: Thank you very much for that. I should most likely sign up for that Bootcamp and follow on series. Sounds good. 

Now I suggest we take a five-minute break and then we go to Peter's session, do the silence and then we see you back in five.

 

 

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