Jill Jenkinson August 23 2023

Productive Paranoia vs Courageous Conviction

When is the right moment to flip from idea generation to action and implementation? In our research looking at organisations who have grown faster and progressed further than their competitors/comparators or market expectations we have identified that there is a “right moment” – a balance between openness to ideas and moving decisively to getting on with it.

The idea of balancing what might appear to be opposing forces or tensions is core to the research insights. There is not one right way, rather it is about harnessing an ability to find the tipping point between the tension of productive paranoia and courageous conviction, keeping in mind your organisation's circumstances. 

The value of our research for clients has been far more than the ability to reverse the data into their own context – it has also given them tangible insights to apply to leadership values, to help with creating and reinforcing culture and helping teams work together.

Let’s imagine this tension in action. Leader X has created a safe and free space in which questioning is constant. Can we go faster, do it better, surpass the competition, and deliver what clients dream about? Energy is high, along with engagement and questions and ideas just keep coming. However, all that energy creates is a mass of possibilities that don’t get converted into experimentation, implementation, and value. Why? Because the leader fails to recognise and capitalise on the moment when action is needed. What's required is a decision with conviction, a strong attachment, refined thinking and a move into “courageous conviction”!

Leader Y naturally leans into conviction. Put a problem on the table and within seconds they will put forward a solution. If that solution is challenged, you may even see visible frustration. Thinking time is clearly over, although the solution is highly likely to be a duplicate version of the last 5 solutions generated.

The research recognises the benefits of both productive paranoia and courageous conviction. It also recognises that we will each lean naturally into one or the other and this will add up to a cultural preference, which will imprint on everyone within that culture.

The learning taken by our clients is how do we apply the right degree of lean, in the right context and in search of the best solution. The aim is to generate ideas, get all the creativity in the room working for you but recognise when the moment for a choice to act arises – then take it.


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