Some of you will have read An Everyone Culture or the articles in the Harvard Business Review that accompanied it (Making Business Personal and Let Employees Be People). Those of you who did will have learnt about Deliberately Developmental Organisations (DDos) - companies which have taken a very conscious decision to put culture front and centre of their strategy and focus on the development and growth of their people. These are genuine game changers for organisation culture and for enabling people to be the best that they can be.
Over the last couple of days I've been at Next Jump, one of the 3 DDOs in the book, as their guest. One key element of their mission is to change the world by changing workplace culture and they've developed an academy to help them spread the message. I was one of a very lucky few to be invited to their first 2-day Leadership Academy in the UK where we got to learn about and observe in action how they do things.
Here's some fair warning - I suspect that you'll see a series of posts from me about my experience with Next Jump as there is a tremendous amount to reflect on, process and share. For now, I'll stick with an overview and a few of my initial thoughts. Seriously, there are so many and I have so much to process that I could have included dozens more!
Here are 12 of the ones that came to me in the order that they came to me:
I'm incredibly jealous and hugely inspired - Next Jump has managed to create something that I've been dreaming about for years, but never been able to achieve fully.
Being as authentic, vulnerable, self-aware, challenging and supportive as Next Jumpers requires massive levels of intentionality, hard work and psychological safety.
Working on your backhand (the stuff that holds you back from fulfilling your potential) requires a level of discipline and effort that exists in all of us, but that very few of us are ever prepared to attempt.
Intent really matters. I've seen people being given what many of us would view as incredibly blunt, direct, challenging feedback that would floor many of us. However, because every Next Jumper knows that the other person is completely for them and wants to help them be the best that they can be and because the supporting systems are in place to help them to interpret and process such feedback, such feedback can be accepted and acted upon.
You need a huge amount of guts and determination - after all, who of us really wants to know what we're like and face up to what is really holding us back and then put in the effort to address it.
The people are amazing! Many of the Next Jumpers are young graduates, but they carry themselves with a maturity, confidence, humility and expertise that you rarely see even in people 2 or 3 times their age. Everyone we met displayed a level of generosity, care, competence, openness and interest that I've only experienced in a handful of other people.
I want a talking partner in my life. A talking partner is a co-mentor - someone a Next Jumper spends time with daily and with whom they process the feedback they've received as well as working through decisions together.
What to the external world could look time consuming and inefficient is anything but. It's multiples more effective. Next Jumpers practice their backhand in areas of the business where making mistakes won't sink the ship. Once they've got strong enough at using their backhand they can apply in the revenue-generating work. Using 2 people to prioritise and make decisions means fewer mistakes get made and the right stuff gets focussed on. The majority of people in other organisations are all incredibly busy, but frequently on the wrong stuff.
While I'm overwhelming positive about the experience, I'm still pondering the level of transferability to other businesses (especially larger, more established ones with a different corporate structure) and I wonder how the company will handle the balance between people's desire for career progression and changing personal priorities as they age. One thing I'm confident about though is that if there's any group of people who are able to work out a solution they're Next Jumpers!
Radical transparency is a very powerful thing - what we got to see is exactly what happens in reality. Talking about concepts like Talking Partners (TPs), Situational Workshops (SWs), 10X, FLO and OBO was fascinating, but actually being a fly on the wall for real ones was amazing. This stuff really works!
While they might not overtly describe themselves as such, Next Jump is an organisation that is truly agile. They've made and are very open about the huge number of mistakes they've experienced, but almost all of them are the result of deliberate intent to experiment, adapt and scale what works. While even the Next Jumpers themselves can get frustrated with the number of experiments and the clunkiness as new experiments get tweaked, they also have confidence that the right solution will be found eventually and that it's worth the frustration to get to the end goal.
I love the 'tough love', radical transparency approach. But even more so I love the fact that they are prepared to spend the time to understand what is really holding them back and then to work on it. Strengths-based development is fine, but it only gets you halfway. Working on the whole person as Next Jump does is the only way to help individuals and teams achieve their full potential. Next Jump just may have found a way to help us reach a whole new level of performance and integrated living.
There is so much still to think about that the only way I'll be able make sense of my experience will be keep reflecting and keep on writing. So, if you don't see more posts from me, please challenge me to do so as this is stuff I think deserves a much wider audience.
Perhaps the highest compliment I can pay them is that if I could live my life over again (and I had no choice but to work for a living!) then I'd want to be a Next Jumper. This is truly an organisation and team of people who can change themselves and the world for the better and I for one will be doing all I can to help them in that effort.