The Human Edge: Designing Work to Create a Cultural Advantage
- Appeared in numerous publications, including Fast Company, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review online and the McKinsey Quarterly
- Sits on the board of advisors of TakingItGlobal, empowering young people to make a difference in the world
- Reveals the most practical and high-impact ways for organizations to innovate, adapt, and succeed by emphasizing the importance of leadership, collaboration, engagement, and accountability
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All change goes against the rules. Polly LaBarre arms leaders with a Maverick Manual to hack the status quo and ramp up originality, invention and game-changing disruption. The true work of leadership, she says, is inspiring, unleashing, and amplifying human creativity, passion, and resourcefulness - creating a cultural DNA where the response to change happens almost as fast as change itself. Co-author of Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win and founding team member of Fast Company magazine, Polly is co-founder of Management Lab, the think-and-do tank where she consults with top global brands. Polly is also a top speaker who leaves audiences with actionable lessons from organizations and leaders who are transforming their cultures and industries by breaking the rules and harnessing the human element. She inspires people to engage and reimagine the challenges they face, become fearless experimenters, and rethink the work of leadership.
Along with her partners at the Management Lab (MLab), Polly has developed a pioneering method and platform for changing how large organizations change. They run large-scale, real-world experiments in “hacking management” to build the deep organizational capabilities crucial for thriving in a creative, disruptive world: adaptability, innovation, and inspiration.
In addition to running global “management hackathons,” MLab has also built the Management Innovation eXchange (MIX), the world’s largest community of management innovators, created a clearinghouse of management hacks and innovation stories, and launched a series of events.
Polly has traveled the world to work with the courageous contrarians, management mavericks, and pioneering progressives who are inventing the future of organizations and business. While these are organizations of every stripe that hail from every realm of endeavor, they do share a common credo: that the most winning organizations are animated by an utterly distinctive and deeply-felt point of view – a set of ideas with the power to fundamentally reshape the sense of what’s possible; that work is personal, values rule, freedom is a bigger game than power, and nobody wins unless everybody wins.
Early in her career, as part of the founding team of Fast Company magazine, Polly played a central role in the remarkable success of a magazine that recast the conventional wisdom on power, competition, work, leadership, innovation, and change. The magazine introduced the world to a new universe of organizations and leaders whose management models were as distinctive as their business models were disruptive.
Polly is the co-author of the award-winning book Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win, which was a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and BusinessWeek bestseller. Published in over 20 territories, Mavericks was a “Business Book of the Year” for The Financial Times, the Miami Herald, and The Economist, which called the book "a pivotal work in the tradition of In Search of Excellence and Good to Great." CNN, CNBC, and GMA all created series around the book.
Polly’s writing has appeared in a variety of publications, including Fast Company, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review online, Fortune.com, the McKinsey Quarterly, and she has served as business and innovation correspondent for CNN.
LEADING IN THE NEW WORK ORDER. A monster wave of change has set off a vast reckoning with our taken-for-granted beliefs about every aspect of how and where work gets done. Every leader today must grapple with the inescapable imperative to create and embrace a comprehensive agenda for meaningful change on the design of work and the interconnected urgent challenges of our time—deep inequities, structural dehumanization, environmental calamity. Polly LaBarre takes leaders on a journey across this new landscape—inspiring them with fresh thinking on the work of leadership and equipping them with powerful new approaches for this new work order, including:
- How to transcend the seemingly intractable tradeoffs between performance imperatives and responsibility for people and planet
- How to cultivate an “audacity of imagination” and galvanize people around a shared sense of purpose
- How to “leader-proof” your organization
- How to design platforms for involving, equipping, and connecting people
- How to build organizational respond-ability by enlarging individual responsibility
- How to grow your own resilience in the face of daunting uncertainty
ROLL WITH CHANGE: RECIPES FOR REINVENTION & RESILIENCE. Who hasn’t been rocked by change in the last few years? While we’ve all been forced to rethink, adjust, and adjust again, the gravitational pull of the status quo remains a stealthy enemy of innovation. What does it take to wake up an organization’s inner insurgent to change ahead of change? These times demand every organization dramatically amp up its agility, inventiveness, and adaptability. Drawing on her research and work inside some of the world’s most innovative and progressive organizations, Polly LaBarre lays out actionable strategies for building a perpetual innovation engine:
- What mindsets, practices and behaviors allow you to see the world differently and subvert the status quo
- Where to look for the future—and how to generate a whole new map of possibility
- How to embed innovation as a social process
- What it takes to create a robust architecture of collaboration for a distributed, ever-evolving cohort of innovation peers and partners
- How to build a resilient organizational microbiome by embedding the mindset and methods of experimentation into everything you do
THE HUMAN EDGE: DESIGNING WORK TO CREATE A CULTURAL ADVANTAGE. Today’s whirlwind of challenges—pandemic, social turbulence, economic uncertainty, looming climate catastrophe—has revealed just how inhospitable our organizations are to the human beings who work inside them. It’s not enough to ask which is the right hybrid work policy. It’s past time to ask: what kinds of organizations would we design if we genuinely believed in the inherent value, fundamental goodness, and unlimited potential of every person? Short answer: they’d be very different. In this talk, Polly LaBarre unpacks design rules for unleashing your organization’s full human and creative capacity and lays out a path for humanizing work, including:
- How to unleash, mobilize and amplify the often unruly, but essential human qualities—imagination, energy, resourcefulness, curiosity, intuition, empathy, artistry, eccentricity, passion, and more—without losing control
- How to cultivate a culture of agency, activism, and ownership where every person makes it their job to change things for the better
- How to equip and involve every person in the organization as a creator, strategist, and entrepreneur
- How to build a community of peers that amplifies belonging, contribution, and voice
- How to maximize engagement by investing in wellbeing and widening the circle of care
DESIGNED TO FLOURISH: DEVELOP PEOPLE, DEFEAT DISRUPTION. Change is an inside-out job. It’s not about reacting to external events or chasing trends, so much as it’s about developing your respond-ability—your elasticity, maturity, plasticity, openness, emotional dexterity, regulatory power, and more. Organizations that deliberately develop that capacity in every individual shore up their own resilience. In other words, “adult development” doesn’t just promote individual growth, it’s a cornerstone of organizational flourishing. Polly LaBarre takes the audience on a quick tour of the organizations and leaders investing in human flourishing in powerful new ways—and offers up a short course in “adult development,” including:
- How to begin, again (and again)
- How to change your mind—cultivating consciousness, mediating mindsets, biases, blinders
- How to develop intuition—learning to tune into your inner knowing
- How to train like an artist, a monk, and an athlete
- How to design and run self-experiments to accelerate your growth loops
- Principles for adult capacity building