A Navy SEAL Talks About Chaos, Leadership and Innovation

Innovative thinking and action arise from friction and heat; opportunity tends to reside in the center of conflict and uncertainty. That is why we study and try to understand the critical relationship between chaos and innovative leadership. And who better to speak to innovating inside of chaos than a Navy Seal?

Author Henry Doss recently interviewed Navy Seal Bob Schoulz to get his perspective on leading in chaos. The innovation leadership that is needed in combat by Navy SEALs and others is not unlike the innovation that is needed on the field in any sport when the game plan goes awry, Schoulz explains. How well the team innovates when they’re in trouble is largely a function of how the team has trained together – how well and how hard, and how creatively.

Organizational innovation, on the other hand, is a different matter entirely, and requires leaders who foster idealism and thinking beyond the boundaries of their own comfort zone. People have to trust their leader to be willing to go there. That’s the lesson of the SEALs, according to Schoulz: When things appear to be out of control, look for the patterns and opportunities; then lead others to those opportunities.

As a leader, of course you want to have in place a strong and pervasive skill set and plan that addresses current circumstances; but you must also cultivate a readiness to quickly change and adapt your thinking when it’s not working.  That’s what the SEALs and other innovative leaders do very, very well.

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