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Where innovation meets fearless advice and loyal implementation

Friday, April 17, 2015
by Nick Charney RSS / cpsrenewalFacebook / cpsrenewalLinkedIn / Nick Charneytwitter / nickcharneygovloop / nickcharneyGoogle+ / nickcharney

Last week I appropriated Clay Christensen's Innovator's dilemma to the world of policy innovation in an attempt to see if the model/thinking holds (See: The Policy Innovator's Dilemma). At a high level I think it generally holds that the dilemma facing the policy innovator is whether or not they ought to pursue sustaining innovations or disruptive innovations. Innovation rhetoric aside, its a leadership decision about whether or not the organization is going to direct its scarce resources towards generating policy process improvements or new policy thinking. The rest of the application is interesting but I think at its core the above statement is the kernel most worth pursuing.

Risk-aversion causes incremental (sustaining) approaches to innovation

A friend of mine reflected (by email) on how it didn't seem like a true dilemma in a risk-averse public service culture. The idea he and I unpacked over email was that risk aversion eliminates disruption as an option, thereby negating the either-or element, resolving the dilemma and leaving public servants to focus solely on policy process improvements. In other words – and this is likely nothing new – risk aversion is the root of incremental approaches to policy innovation.

Who or what ultimately determines which innovation strategy to pursue?

Jeff on the other hand left a comment (rebutted by Angela) that argued the dilemma was at the feet of Ministers. I found this too to be an interesting perspective. However, I don't think its as cut and dried. For example, if you parse the PM's Guide for Ministers and Ministers of State (2011) you will see (among many other things) that:

  • Government policy is established by Cabinet
  • The Cabinet decision-making process is a key mechanism for achieving overall coherence and coordination in government policy
  • A Minister may delegate to a Parliamentary Secretary specific duties for policy development initiatives. Overall responsibility and accountability remain with the Minister, who also remains responsible for the direction of public servants and departmental resources, and has authority to initiate departmental actions.
  • Public servants, reporting in a clear chain of command to the deputy minister, provide professional, nonpartisan policy advice to Ministers and conduct departmental operations through the exercise of legal authorities flowing from the Minister
  • Ministers who wish to support an item that is equivalent to a new government policy decision must seek Cabinet approval to do so
  • Deputy ministers are accountable for a wide range of responsibilities including policy advice, program delivery, internal departmental management and interdepartmental coordination. As deputy ministers, they do so in a manner that supports both the individual and collective responsibilities of their Minister. They are accountable on a day-to-day basis to their Minister, and a cooperative relationship between the two is critical. The advice that deputy ministers provide should be objective and must respect the law. If conflict occurs between the Minister’s instructions and the law, the law prevails. 
  • The Prime Minister leads the process of setting the general direction of government policy. The Prime Minister is responsible for arranging and managing the processes that determine how decisions in government are made, and for reconciling differences among Ministers. The Prime Minister establishes the government’s position before Parliament by recommending to the Governor General the summoning and dissolution of Parliament, by preparing the Speech from the Throne outlining the broad policy agenda for each new parliamentary session and by determining whether proposed government legislation approved by the Cabinet is subsequently put before Parliament. The Prime Minister approves the Budget presented by the Minister of Finance. 
  • The deputy minister, as the Minister’s principal source of public service support and policy advice, is expected to advise the Minister on all matters under the Minister’s responsibility and authority. While the deputy minister does not have direct authority over non-departmental bodies in the portfolio, he or she plays a key role in promoting appropriate policy coordination, and building coherence in the activities and reporting of the portfolio bodies. Deputies can provide advice to Ministers on the appropriate means to ensure integration in the undertakings of their portfolio, while respecting any accountability requirements and mandates set out by legislation. 

In sum, plain English and chronology:
The PM sets the broader direction. Cabinet brings greater specificity to that policy direction and ensures coherence. Deputies serve as the principal source of policy advice to Ministers. Public servants provide professional and nonpartisan advice to their Deputies.
To me this looks like a fairly collaborative approach to policy making and while it may be technically true that ultimately the final decision-making powers lie at the Cabinet table there are a whole series of smaller decisions diffused across the system that significantly impact what actually makes it to that table in the first place. To me this would seem to indicate that decisions about which innovation strategies are similarly diffused across the policy making process. If this is true than a lack of disruptive policy options could be attributed to the fact that no one along the supply chain is raising them or that somewhere along the supply chain they are actively being suppressed. The former option jives with the above argument about risk aversion and seems likely. The latter however seems far less likely, in my experience the active suppression of policy ideas is more of a ghost story than a reality (queue the naysayers who've been told to stay in their box).

Which brings me to the rub

I said in the opening that essentially the policy innovator's dilemma comes down to a leadership decision about whether or not the organization is going to direct its scarce resources towards generating policy process improvements or new policy thinking. Where I think we've landed after today's discussion is that those leadership decisions aren't concentrated in the hands of the few but rather diffused across a complex system and risk-averse culture.

In many ways these are enduring themes that I've written about in the past and this is where I think innovation meets fearless advice and loyal implementation. Back in 2011 I wrote about fairly well read post On fearless advice and loyal implementation. At the time I was writing about the context of government culture writ large but I think it also applies to how we think about and approach innovation, here's an excerpt:
I think the problem is that we have collectively misinterpreted the significance and underestimated the opportunities we have to effect our work culture and sub-cultures, regardless of where we work or what we work on. We mistakenly think of fearless advice as something that only the people at the very top of the organization do; something that is reserved for private meetings between Deputies and their Ministers. In fact, I think that speaking truth to power (fearless advice and loyal implementation) more often means pushing against the small "p" office politics and the small "c" culture of the bureaucracy. In other words, fearless advice isn't reserved for ministerial briefings, but rather happens in the hallways, over cubicle walls, and in the lunch rooms among peers. 
Think of it in terms of the long tail:



The idea here being that new disruptive policy ideas can emerge from anywhere along the long tail, to which I suppose I still only have one remaining question: why aren't they? 




The Promise of Online Collaboration

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

by Kent Aitken RSS / cpsrenewalFacebook / cpsrenewalLinkedIn / Kent Aitkentwitter / kentdaitkengovloop / KentAitken


I think one of the most fascinating questions of this point in history is whether we, as a society, are awesome or terrible at online collaboration. Personally, I’m rooting for terrible. I actually would be happy if we were completely wretched at it right now.

The promise of collaboration


Why? Well, for starters, we've been promised much by online collaboration. That it "changes everything":

 












Mass collaboration, facilitated by the internet, has been touted as a powerful, world-changing opportunity. And so far, there have been amazing successes: Wikipedia, Open Street Map, Ushahidi. In my own experience, online collaboration has been astonishing, opening opportunities I could never have imagined even five years ago. I think the promise of the digital era is (mostly) real, and that over time it's going to reform governance. 

Yet, our days as professionals are still spent in face-to-face meetings. Digital democracy has hardly taken root. Most people don’t engage in online communities; the content is largely created and debated by a small subset of power users. When people do engage online, it’s usually for “light” collaboration, leaving the heavier or more complicated tasks for in-person work.

So there are a few possibilities to explain this state of affairs:

  1. We’re good at online collaboration, but only for certain cases and situations

    or

  2. There are fundamental differences between in-person and online collaboration

    or

  3. We have no idea what we’re doing*

*But impressive examples (like Wikipedia) are inevitable by virtue of the sheer number of collaboration experiments between the sheer number of people on the internet

I think that we have no idea what we're doing

Or at least, we have little idea. And that's good news, in a roundabout way. Consider this:
  1. Innovation labs are the order of the day for governments. They’re built around tools, processes, techniques, and understanding what sort of space and conditions people require to innovate.

  2. If you go back thirty years in the Public Participation research, you run into articles like Citizens Panels: A New Approach to Citizen Participation. Ten years later, other researchers were still sorting it out:

    “...most citizen participation techniques have been judged to be less than adequate tools for informing policy makers about the people's will. Recently, having planners or policy analysts work closely with long-standing citizen panels… panels can overcome many of the limitations to effective citizen participation.”

  3. The roles of facilitators and guides are increasingly recognized as crucial for organizations. Some (very worthwhile) examples from the Government of Canada:
    1. National Manager’s Community Tools for Leadership
    2. Or their Tools for Building a Learning Organization 
    3. Or Policy Horizons’ Learn and Grow Together: What is a learning organization?

Which I'm taking as evidence of this idea:

We’re still learning how to collaborate in person, let alone online.

The above examples demonstrate the realization that inviting a bunch of people into a room and hoping for the best is a terrible approach. We still do that online (and sadly, sometimes, in person). 

And we're pretty new to online (the Government of Canada declared “mission accomplished” on Government On-Line only nine years ago). It’d be perfectly reasonable if we were not that good at online collaboration yet. Online is different. There are similarities, but it’s different. We'd be crazy to think that we simply understand how to do this intuitively. Instead, it will be part art, part science. It will merit rigour and some degree of professionalization.

This is good news. It means that the lofty promise of online collaboration remains intact. It's a matter of scaling a learning curve, which we've just begun, towards truly and fully understanding (and becoming effective at) online collaboration. 

With that in mind, I stand by my seemingly hyperbolic opening line. I think one of the most fascinating questions of this point in history is whether we’re awesome or terrible at online collaboration.


The Policy Innovator's Dilemma

Friday, April 10, 2015

by Nick Charney RSS / cpsrenewalFacebook / cpsrenewalLinkedIn / Nick Charneytwitter / nickcharneygovloop / nickcharneyGoogle+ / nickcharney

Policy Innovator's Dilemma: TL;DR

I'll put the TL;DR up front for all you who keep score, but I'll elaborate on it afterwards:
The dilemma facing policy innovators is whether or not they ought to focus on delivering the status quo policy interventions faster, better and cheaper, or whether or not they ought to focus on breaking the status quo, re-purposing the pieces, and putting them to new uses.

Preamble

Today's post is basically an appropriation of Clay Christensen's Innovator's Dilemma to the world of public policy; but before I jump into the application of the model/thinking from the former world to the latter, I wanted to outline the dilemma in a bit more detail.


The Innovator's Dilemma: a Recap

NB: this recap is sourced heavily from the discussion guide in the book. If you are already familiar with the Innovator's dilemma you may wish to jump ahead to the next section; that said, what follows below serves as a great refresh.



If you are at all familiar with the literature on innovation you will likely know that Clay Christensen's The Innovator's Dilemma is one of the most — if not the most — important books in the field. If you haven't read the book (See: Monday Book Review: The Innovator's Dilemma by Clay Christensen) I've embedded a short interview above that Christensen did with Harvard Business Review that gives you a sense of how he sees the issue. In the book Christensen asks, 'Why do well-managed companies fail?' and concludes that they often fail because the very management practices that have allowed them to become industry leaders also make it extremely difficult for them to develop the disruptive technologies that ultimately erode the markets in which they are established. He argues that well-managed companies are excellent at developing the sustaining technologies that improve the performance of their products (measured by customers) because their management practices are naturally biased towards:
  • Listening to customers
  • Investing aggressively in technologies that give existing customers what they want
  • Seeking higher margins
  • Targeting larger markets rather than smaller ones

However, disruptive technology is distinctly different from sustaining technology. Disruptive technologies change the value proposition in a given market. When they first appear, they almost always offer lower performance than mainstream customers care about. They are typically cheaper, smaller, simpler, and frequently more convenient to use. Therefore, they open new markets. Typically disruptive technologies – with experience and sufficient investment – will always improve their products’ performance and eventually take over the older markets because deliver sufficient performance blending old attributes with new ones.

The Innovator’s Dilemma describes both the processes through which disruptive technologies supplant older technologies and the powerful forces within well-managed companies that make them unlikely to develop those technologies themselves. Christensen offers outlines four principles of disruptive technology to explain why the management practices that are the most productive for exploiting existing technologies are counterproductive when it comes to developing disruptive ones:
1. Companies Depend on Customers and Investors for Resources - In order to survive, companies must provide customers and investors with the products, services, and profits that they require. The highest performing companies, therefore, have well-developed systems for killing ideas that their customers don’t want. As a result, these companies find it very difficult to invest adequate resources in disruptive technologies—lower-margin opportunities that their customers don’t want—until their customers want them. And by then, it is too late.

2. Small Markets Don’t Solve the Growth Needs of Large Companies - To maintain their share prices and create internal opportunities for their employees, successful companies need to grow. It isn't necessary that they increase their growth rates, but they must maintain them. And as they get larger, they need increasing amounts of new revenue just to maintain the same growth rate. Therefore, it becomes progressively more difficult for them to enter the newer, smaller markets that are destined to become the large markets of the future. To maintain their growth rates, they must focus on large markets.

3. Markets That Don’t Exist Can’t Be Analyzed - Sound market research and good planning followed by execution according to plan are the hallmarks of good management. But companies whose investment processes demand quantification of market size and financial returns before they can enter a market get paralyzed when faced with disruptive technologies because they demand data on markets that don’t yet exist.

4. Technology Supply May Not Equal Market Demand - Although disruptive technologies can initially be used only in small markets, they eventually become competitive in mainstream markets. This is because the pace of technological progress often exceeds the rate of improvement that mainstream customers want or can absorb. As a result, the products that are currently in the mainstream eventually will overshoot the performance that mainstream markets demand, while the disruptive technologies that underperform relative to customer expectations in the mainstream market today may become directly competitive tomorrow. Once two or more products are offering adequate performance, customers will find other criteria for choosing. These criteria tend to move toward reliability, convenience, and price, all of which are areas in which the newer technologies often have advantages.
Christensen argues that managers frequently make the mistake of trying to fight or overcome the principles above rather than harnessing them. According to Christensen, applying the traditional management practices that lead to success with sustaining technologies always leads to failure with disruptive technologies. Specifically, he advises managers faced with disruptive technologies to:
  • Give responsibility for disruptive technologies to organizations whose customers need them so that resources will flow to them; 
  • Set up a separate organization small enough to get excited by small gains; 
  • Plan for failure. Don’t bet all your resources on being right the first time. Think of your initial efforts at commercializing a disruptive technology as learning opportunities. Make revisions as you gather data; and 
  • Don't count on breakthroughs. Move ahead early and find the market for the current attributes of the technology. You will find it outside the current mainstream market. You will also find that the attributes that make disruptive technologies unattractive to mainstream markets are the attributes on which the new markets will be built.

The Policy Innovator's Dilemma: an Introduction

NB: There's a lot of overlap between this section and the section above; I literally cut and paste it and then re-wrote it so as to apply the Innovator's Dilemma to the policy domain. I've couched my terms in probabilities given that this is a thought experiment.

The question here may be different – in this case its 'Why do well-managed bureaucracies fail?' – but the resulting logic likely still applies: the very management practices that create the stability of bureaucracy also make it extremely difficult to develop the disruptive policy innovations that would ultimately erode the policy domains in which they are firmly established. Well-managed bureaucracies are probably good at developing the sustaining innovations that improve the performance of their policies or related services (measured by constituents) because their management practices are biased towards:
  • Listening to constituents
  • Investing aggressively in policies that give existing client-segments what they want
  • Seeking lower costs
  • Pursuing increasingly complex policy options rather than simple ones
Like technology, disruptive policy innovation is likely distinctly different from sustaining policy innovation. Disruptive policy innovations ought to change the value proposition in a given policy domain. When they first appear, they should almost always offer lower performance than mainstream constituents care about. Typically we could expect them to be cheaper, smaller, simpler, and frequently more convenient to use. They are likely to create new conditions within the policy domain. We can expect them to – with experience and sufficient investment – continue to improve their performance over time and eventually spill over in other, more established policy domains by blending old attributes with new ones.

The Policy Innovator’s Dilemma then describes both the processes through which disruptive policy innovations supplant older policy approaches and the powerful forces within bureaucracies that make them unlikely to develop those policies themselves. If all the above is true, then the four principles of disruptive policy innovation might look something like this:
1. Bureaucracies Depend on Constituents and Stakeholders for Resources - In order to survive, bureaucracies must provide constituents and stakeholders with the policies, services, and outcomes that they require. The highest performing government departments, therefore, have well-developed systems for killing ideas that their traditional constituents don’t want. As a result, these companies find it very difficult to invest adequate resources in disruptive policy innovations – lower-impact opportunities that their constituents don’t want – until their constituents want them. And by then, it is too late.

2. Simple Policy Options Don’t Solve the Needs of Complex Bureaucracies - To maintain their influence and create opportunities for their employees, successful bureaucracies need to grow. It isn't necessary that they increase their growth rates, but they must maintain them. And as bureaucracies get larger, they need increasing complexity to justify their growth rates. Therefore, it becomes progressively more difficult for them to enter the newer, smaller policy domains that are destined to become the large policy domains of the future. To maintain their growth rates, they must focus on policy domains that are 'du jour' not those that are of 'l'avenir'.

3. Policy Options That Don’t Exist Can’t Be Analyzed - Sound policy research, good planning and execution according to plan are the hallmarks of good public management. But governments whose investment processes demand the strict quantification of a given policy intervention and its projected impact before it can be tested are paralyzed when faced with disruptive policy innovations because they demand data on policy interventions that don’t yet exist.

4. The Supply of Policy Innovation May Not Equal Demand - Although disruptive policy innovation can initially be used only in small policy domains, it eventually becomes competitive in mainstream policy domains. This is because the pace of progress often exceeds the rate of improvement that traditional constituents want or can absorb. As a result, the policies that are currently in the mainstream eventually overshoot the performance that mainstream constituents demand, while the disruptive policy innovations that underperform relative to mainstream constituent expectations may become directly competitive tomorrow. Once two or more policy interventions offer adequate performance, constituents will find other criteria for choosing. These criteria tend to move toward reliability, convenience, and transaction cost, all of which are areas in which the newer policy option has advantages.
It follows then that bureaucrats are likely to frequently make the mistake of trying to fight or overcome the principles above rather than harnessing them and apply traditional management practices that lead create the conditions that foster sustaining policy innovations but lead to failure with respect to disruptive policy innovations. Given all of the above, what advice could be given to decision makers within the policy context? Perhaps:
  • Give responsibility for disruptive policy innovations to organizations whose constituents need them so that resources will flow to them; 
  • Set up separate organizations small enough to get excited by small gains; 
  • Plan for failure. Don’t bet all your resources on being right the first time. Think of your initial efforts at testing a disruptive policy option as a learning opportunity. Make revisions as you gather data; and 
  • Don't count on breakthroughs. Move ahead early and find the policy domain for the current attributes of the innovation. You will find it outside the current mainstream policy environment. You will also find that the attributes that make disruptive policy innovations unattractive to mainstream markets are the attributes on which the new markets will be built.
Policy Innovator's Dilemma: Origins

When I first started thinking about whether or not I could apply Christensen's thinking to the world of policy I re-wrote two critical paragraphs from Christensen's book (found on p.98); here's the original text:
“The reason [why great companies failed] is that good management itself was the root cause. Managers played the game the way it’s supposed to be played. The very decision-making and resource allocation processes that are key to the success of established companies are the very processes that reject disruptive technologies: listening to customers; tracking competitors actions carefully; and investing resources to design and build higher-performance, higher-quality products that will yield greater profit. These are the reasons why great firms stumbled or failed when confronted with disruptive technology change.

Successful companies want their resources to be focused on activities that address customers’ needs, that promise higher profits, that are technologically feasible, and that help them play in substantial markets. Yet, to expect the processes that accomplish those things also to do something like nurturing disruptive technologies – to focus resources on proposals that customers reject, that offer lower profit, that underperform existing technologies and can only be sold in insignificant markets– is akin to flapping one’s arms with wings strapped to them in an attempt to fly. Such expectations involve fighting some fundamental tendencies about the way successful organizations work and about how their performance is evaluated.”
Here's my comparative re-write (click to enlarge):



And finally, here's a clean, text-based version:

“The reason [governments failed] is that bureaucracy itself was the root cause. Bureaucrats played the game the way it’s supposed to be played. The very decision-making and resource allocation processes that are key to the success of established hierarchies are the very processes that reject disruptive ideas: listening to constituents; tracking outputs carefully; and investing resources to design and build higher-performance, higher-quality delivery mechanisms that will yield greater results. These are the reasons why governments stumbled or failed when confronted with disruptive technology change.

Successful governments want their resources to be focused on activities that address constituents’ needs, that promise greater outputs, that are feasible, and that help them play a substantial role. Yet, to expect the processes that accomplish those things also to do something like nurturing disruptive ideas – to focus resources on proposals that constituents reject, that offer less output, that underperform existing delivery vehicles and can only be administered to insignificant markets– is akin to flapping one’s arms with wings strapped to them in an attempt to fly. Such expectations involve fighting some fundamental tendencies about the way successful organizations work and about how their performance is evaluated.”


Policy Innovator's Dilemma: In Plain English

Again, paraphrasing Christensen (this time from the video embedded above):
The policy innovator's dilemma is that in every department or agency every day, every year, people are going into senior management's office, knocking on the door saying "I've got a new policy idea" and some of those entail improving existing policy interventions that governments could deliver better to their existing constituent base. A disruptive policy innovation generally has to cause you to go after new policy areas, people who aren't your constituents and the policy intervention you want to bring to them is something that is so simple to administer that your current constituents can't use it (or worse are offended by it because they've built infrastructure around the old policy regime, think regulatory capture). And so the choice that the policy innovator has to make is whether or not the department or agency should improve existing policy interventions that can be better administered to the existing constituent base or should the department or agency make less refined and/or technocratic policy interventions that could radically change the shape of the policy domain, potentially alienate their existing constituent base and erode their current relationships. Given the choice, what should departments and agencies do?
And that my friends, really is the policy innovator's dilemma.

My Experiment with a Personal Failure Report

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

by Kent Aitken RSS / cpsrenewalFacebook / cpsrenewalLinkedIn / Kent Aitkentwitter / kentdaitkengovloop / KentAitken


At this time last year - the end of the fiscal year for government, during performance review season - I wrote a personal failure report, based on the Engineers Without Borders model and likewise inspired organizations like Fail Forward. The goal was to reflect on my failures and consider how I'd make the most of those lessons learned. As Engineers Without Borders put it:
EWB believes that success in development is not possible without taking risks and innovating – which inevitably means failing sometimes. We also believe that it’s important to publicly celebrate these failures, which allows us to share the lessons more broadly and create a culture that encourages creativity and calculated risk taking. 
In the comments on last week's post (see: I Don't Have It All Together), David referenced failure reports:
We have started with failure reports and talking about failure, but very rarely do I see anyone admitting to anything that can't be construed as failing up or failing on the road to success. There's a certain "failure-based PR" lens that's rubs me the wrong way.
Here's the funny thing: after several drafts, the personal failure report just didn't work. At all. I posted it, then quickly took it down. I failed at writing a failure report.

Here's why:
  • It's impossible to know if alternative decisions at certain points would have worked; there's no data on the results of choices not made
  • I don't work in a vacuum. I tried to make it about how I worked within my environment, but it was impossible to fully separate my personally owned missteps
  • There wasn't much overlap in the Venn diagram of A) brutal honesty about how things went, B) what I thought would be useful for others to read, and C) what I would be willing to publish (the aforementioned failure-based PR lens)


It wasn't a complete waste. The exercise reminded me about what I valued about my role in the public service, and where I had to work harder to live up to that. But all told, failures exist in a very particular context, and it's better for us - and those we'd share resultant lessons with, even publicly - to respect that.

Being up front about one's vulnerability (see: On the Value of Vulnerability- for the sake of intellectual honesty, creating a safe space for dialogue, and building trust - may be a different beast altogether.

On the Value of Vulnerability

Friday, March 27, 2015

by Nick Charney RSS / cpsrenewalFacebook / cpsrenewalLinkedIn / Nick Charneytwitter / nickcharneygovloop / nickcharneyGoogle+ / nickcharney

Whether or not you read it earlier this week, Kent laid a lot on the line when he posted I don't have it all together. Prior to posting it he sent me a draft and asked if I thought it was appropriate to share, and if so, to share on this medium. To which I replied:

No one has it all together. We can trade notes some time. Showing others that you are vulnerable isn't easy but in my experience it usually ends up helping create rapport and trust. I'll leave the decision to post it to you, but I wouldn't hold it back if I were in your shoes.

I'm really glad he decided to share it.

I'm glad he shared it because he is right about our collective capacity for selective disclosure. When I'm at my most irreverent (on a stage or at the pub) I'm quick to throw social media en masse under the bus as a complete and utter waste time and effort; a never-ending stream of carefully curated lies we tell about ourselves while disdainfully flicking a thumb up as we scroll through the lies of others, somehow oblivious that others are doing the same to us.

He's right about falling behind too. I fall behind most on things I want to read and people I want to talk to. The nice thing about this one is that the things to read will still be there when you finally get back to them, and if you are lucky and have already invested in those people you want to talk to, they will be too.

Screwing up at work? Been there.

Self-doubt? Yup.

Mental health issues. Check.

Hell, I don't have it all together either. Neither do most of the folks I know and trust. Not everyone is comfortable with that imperfect state of affairs but they are working on being more comfortable with it every day. That's life.

There's a value in vulnerability that is worth preserving

While I have no empirical evidence other than my lived experience, I've always been of the view that showing vulnerability can be a catalyst for trust (see: Scheming Virtuously). Perhaps this is because we are often willing to put ourselves in the most vulnerable positions with those whom we trust. People seem to understand that sharing our secrets, our fears, and our tenderest of moments would be impossible without the level of trust borne out of vulnerability.

But I also get the sense that there is something that links vulnerability, trust and leadership. I don't have time to dive into the literature right now and obviously one ought to carefully consider the when, why and how of showing vulnerability in the workplace, but on balance I feel like we (as a society and a culture) undervalue vulnerability.