The NWORX Practice
On the internet, if you can tune yourself out from all the noise and intentionally navigate into the dark forest of information, you will eventually arrive at the very frontiers of whatever it is you’re working on. The cutting edge of your field. This, I must admit, is quite hard but universally possible on the open web.
At NWORX, our goal is to make it the prime destination on the internet for the best of Everything on Leadership. The most comprehensive resource informed by our many years of experience and our creative work synthesizing ideas from thought leaders across many fields. For this, we setup our “Lighthouse” in the digital and the physical world.
In our explorations, we did discover some crucial ideas in deep corners of the Internet. Ideas that helped us pen down our deepest intuitions. One such essay was titled “Contextual Flow” by one, relatively-obscure writer and philosopher Zat Rana.
If you’re not the familiar with the idea of Flow States, it is what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s famously describes to be the optimal human experience, after decades of research studying both regular and high-achieving people. Zat’s ingenious move was to extend Mihaly’s concept of Flow States to explain it as the only practical measure for optimizing Life against abstract ideas of success, happiness, money, impact, etc. all of which only exist in an imagined future. Zat’s creative move deconstructs all of life to the Present: the immediate experience of your Life, of which Flow States can then be the North Star.
As we expanded upon this insight in the context of Leadership development in our previous essay, we found it to be the only real, non-vanity way to “measure” and develop Leadership performance. In this essay, we will show you how we go about doing that: the NWORX Practice.
At NWORX, we focus on the direct-experience of a Leader which makes our approach highly contextual to an individual’s needs. This contextualization is popularly understood to be inversely proportional to scalability. But it changes today. In our efforts to develop leadership, we virtually manage to show up at your place of work and do not leave without ensuring you are effective in your Leadership responsibilities. And with our design, we can deploy this highly contextual approach at scale.
Before we begin, I want to point out that “Contextual Flow” was hardly a persuasive title for a blog post. We only read it because it was in Zat’s newsletter hidden behind a paywall and on some random day we pledged to subscribe to Zat Rana for eternity. He is earnest in his brilliance and one of the most independent thinkers we have come across. His ideas are practical and spring out of long-term thinking which has often helped us to be effective in our Leadership development practices.
Online Writers like Zat are rare. For instance, in a race to go ‘viral’, various Leadership development companies try to constantly tease you with seemingly useful but really passable content, dressed-up in attractive uniforms to signal urgency and contrarianism. One such essay is of the variety: “Why a “particular, trending method” actually sucks and what you should be doing instead?” By pitting their advertised approach against the trending method, they create a persuasive show that garners them a chunk of raging followers.
But truth be told, the only times such click-bait-y content will truly expand your understanding is if the proposed alternative-method by the company is a complete paradigm shift over the known-methodology. If not that, it should at-least supersede the practical-method. Rarely, even one of this is the case. More so, in most practical purposes, such comparisons itself should not be the point of focus. As when one really thinks through the implementation, one will realize that the big challenges in Leadership-development today doesn’t actually lie with the methodologies itself but the implementation around it. It is the actual design of the practice that should supersede and be a paradigm shift over other approaches to really push the frontier. Let’s see why!
The Old Approach is a Gamble and The Simple Approach is really Hard
Different methodologies are effective in their corresponding context and must be deployed when the underlying assumptions hold true. Different methodologies can be contextually effective and so all of them should be allowed to exist without trying to prove that one is universally better than the other. However, the current approaches don’t like this reality.
The current, prevalent approaches for Leadership development are what we describe to be of the “Just-in-Case” learning paradigm. Today, a Leader-participant is developed by yanking him out of his work for a few weeks and jamming as many methodologies and frameworks as possible in that limited time, in-advance. For this, they’re forced to predict, and compare, and silently assume that their pick of methods and the subsequent learning is all a Leader will need during his lifetime. This, of course, can never be reliably predicted and the whole approach ends up leaving outcomes to the mercy of chance. The old answer is a gamble.
Now, if you can somehow synchronize your development program with the actual, ongoing work of a Leader-participant, then you can simply deploy whatever methodology and technique fits the particular context of a Leader’s needs. The logic is simple but the required social engineering has proven to be impossible. The simple answer is really hard.
[A] NWORX’s Social Engineering
[B] The NWORX Design
We at NWORX virtually manage to show up at your place of work and do not leave without ensuring you are effective in your Leadership responsibilities. And with our design, against popular opinion, we can deploy this highly contextual approach at scale.
We deploy a set of techniques and methodologies in synchronization with the performance-flow of Leadership on-demand as per the specific context. Essentially, before an upcoming action we understand your context and enable you with a set of concepts, coaching, workshops etc. There are two pieces of software that we’ve built to handle the information flow during our synchronized engagement with the Leader in the flow of his daily work: The NWORX App and the Coaching Console working with you in a cycle of Prepare-Perform-Reflect :
In the NWORX App, we’ve built a meaningful structure to organize contextually effective mental models and frameworks. The UX has essentially captured and automated many tasks that was previously manually enabled by an assistant in non-scalable hands-on coaching format. The Coaching console allows us to communicate with you in-sync along the process.
Whenever there’s an upcoming action, the app enables a Leader to capture the context and get a primer on the relevant concepts. Through our Coaching Console we guide the candidate into building and practicing his skills in the days leading up to the action. This is the Preparation phase. After this you Perform the action, and then…
We close a feedback loop with the Leader capturing his experience in the NWORX systems. The apps then make it available the next time a similar context arises.
This creates the virtuous cycle of Prepare-Perform-Reflect. All of these parts works as a stable system to support the chaotic flow of Leadership.
Our software tools plugs into your Leadership performance flow in an UX that synchronizes NWORX with your real-world Leadership activities to form a virtuous cycle of Prepare — Perform — Reflect.
We create a system that manages to collaborate with your Leadership practice. Now, before we begin the development, we lay the ground work.
At the beginning of our engagement, we frame the long-term goals, first-and-foremost, in terms of the sense of Self, the identity the Leader carries of himself. It is by understanding the self can we improve it’s relationship with others, with his creative work and with his own faculties. We help the Leader envision an Identity for himself, years down the line, on the foundation of meaningful, foundational values. We take a diagnosis of the environment in which the Self performs and capture a few contextual themes that primes our development systems for what is ahead.
By establishing the present Self, the future Goal and the Environment, we can now set out to plan the journey. Over the span of next few months, we plonk milestones a few weeks apart, each one of them enabled by the P-P-R cycle. Each milestone employs the NWORX solution in your real-world situations and iterates upon it as per actual results. Through these milestones, we deeply engage with the Leader to bring about the vital perspective shifts needed for the many development paths. And eventually, we slowly fade out the depth of our engagement as the Leader masters the system to take control over his development for years to come.
At NWORX, we cross-pollinate insights from our varied experiences with many Leader-participants to continuously update our systems. This allows us to constantly be there by you through your entire Leadership career. The NWORX System is the first place you will look into no matter what your Leadership responsibilities throws at you for years to come.
The focus on Self, Goal and Environment is an invention of our insight to create a supporting structure based on the contextual flow of a Leader’s performance.
NWORX shifts and supersedes the Landscape of Leadership
Unlike the prevalent “Just-in-Case” type of development programs, within the “Just-in-Time” paradigm we can on-demand deploy upon the relevant methodology. This virtually eliminates the need to pit different methodologies and models against each other. In the NWORX design, we have no incentives to participate in such battles. Instead, we can pick the very comprehensive yet minimal set of coherent ideas that when taken together can holistically develop a Leader. But more importantly, we are not stuck making a sweeping claim for our choices as our system is being rapidly iterated in multiple feedback cycles with our Leaders across the globe. We have no biased attachment to any theories as we are guided by the practice.
The Just-in-Time development approach to NWORX Leadership supersedes and shifts the entire landscape of leadership development prevalent today.
There are about 600+ models in the domain of Leadership development dealing with Leadership definitions, some with conditions and environments, some with qualities and so on. When shopping for a Leadership development program, you can find packages that includes every model that you can deem to be necessary for your context. But in here, lies two critical problems: one on the buyer-side and the other on the supplier’s.
Buyer side: While you might opt for a solution that suits your context better, but in practice, this is critically short-sighted and irresponsible as any team or a company-at-large usually progresses in unexpected ways. And then pandemics like COVID-19 can make everything unrecognizable the very next day. Companies grow non-linearly and unpredictably. Your performance context will likely have already begun transmuting by the time you return from an in-advance JIC program.
Supplier side: Consider a method called situational role-play. It is found to be very effective to build specific critical Leaders skill. The experience offers a sequence of progressively complex role-plays, immediate feedback after every role-play, and elevated sense of ‘high stakes’ in the final role-play as the subject demonstrates evidence of skill acquisition. However, this method is very hard and burdensome to deliver in it’s holistic sense. Now, because they are happening in-advance where the transaction is completed way before the Leader-participant gets to implement, the supplier can cut many corners without anybody noticing. So many practices will deliver critically few situational role-plays and offer even fewer items of feedback and then send the subject back to the workplace. On the other hand, the NWORX design, by virtue of it being tested in real-time, has to accurately uphold every model we deploy.
In-advance development programs can only “hope” to find their way into the direct experiences of it’s participants. These programs are, at most, poking from an arm’s length at what truly matters. At this distance, all content can only be highly abstracted, often only speaking in broad strokes, and is difficult to map to the concrete context of the participant. And so, the ultimate outcome is mostly left to chance.
The Value of NWORX Leadership Development Practice
The Only Reliable Way: The NWORX design happened when our world shifted on it’s axis in the revolution of new information technology and systems. A crucial achievement of this shift finally making “Just-in-Time” paradigm possible. It is known that the various methodologies taught need to be contextually adapted in all it’s details by the Leader when applied. The Leader has to make the techniques work for himself. And this interpretation shall ideally be done in the process of absorbing these techniques, in complete awareness of your specific context. However, with the “just-in-case” paradigm, when you learn without being wholly aware of the demanded context, the absorption is critically bland to the point of being ineffective when eventually applied far-off into the future.
Outcome-Based: Our engagement with the Leader spans over multiple real-work milestones and real value is created from the very first cycle. This undeniably tethers us to be evaluated by our Leader-participants directly based on outcomes. When you assume the responsibility as a Leader, our work begins. We will work with you to become the Leader that your specific environment and goals demand. Instead of merely educating you in a classroom-environment in the hope you will pick the right paths in your working-environments, we will create the paths that work for you when you need them. We don’t predict and gamble, we simply deliver.
The whole solution benefits from multiple feedback cycles occurring in the real world, which is virtually unheard of in the Leadership development landscape.
The development system NWORX delivers goes through multiple-feedback cycles during our engagement that sets us on a course-correcting path towards the most optimal experiences in your performance – the epitome of Flow States.