“Think Wrong!” The Best Way to Lead Transformational Change

By | April 30, 2017

What happens when you turn your organization chart “upside down?” Why is it important for organizations to build a network of leaders in support of transformational change? Is it urgent for your organization to make things happen? Let’s explore this crazy approach to Think Wrong!” The Best Way to Lead Transformational Change.

John Beilenberg, who coined “thinking wrong” proposes that “subconsciously we’re following predictable pathways to solve problems whereas what you want at the beginning of a design challenge is as many possibilities as you could imagine.”

The model I use when working with organizations to lead transformational change is the KOTTER 8 STEP CHANGE MODEL . The second step of the change model calls on organizations to build a network of leaders in support of their transformational change initiative. Done correctly, the organization will identify a group of urgent individuals gathered from outside the traditional organizational structure, also known as the “hierarchy,” to help lead the change effort.


We need people who understand the urgency for them to make things happen and are motivated by the big opportunity for change. It is this group that will identify and remove barriers, create new networks of relationships across the organization and drive change!

Why is this step so difficult?

Working with executives and other senior leaders, it becomes obvious very quickly that they are set on structures and patterns they believe will support their goals. In fairness, they have been trained to think in terms of titles and ownership of tasks. Egos are the barrier for these key leaders to see other paths to success.

Organizational leaders need structure and order to ensure that “business as usual” can continue on schedule. The hierarchy structure and management practices are the culture or, in other words, “the way we do things around here!” Losing this structure and order can make these leaders feel like they are losing their “power.”

The competencies we are looking for in this transformational network of leaders will ensure that this networked leadership group is urgent, highly collaborative, and nimble. The networked model requires individuals in the organization to experience a “thinking wrong” moment. Their mind must be open to the concept of leaders leading at all levels…imagine that – leaders leading at all levels resulting in a totally new way of working. Influencing others to accept this concept is easier said than done. I have worked with organizations where, in reality, this is an “espoused culture”…talked about but not really “the way we do things around here.” Rather, it’s often “the way we talk about things around here”…big, big difference!

How do we influence a change in this mindset? 

Thinking differently about anything starts when new stimuli are introduced to the organization. A “change disrupter” is needed and this person(s) needs to bring a view of the world that is outside of the well-worn mental paths. Organizations are programmed to want, need and value hierarchy and order to get things done. As I said earlier, they can hardly fathom how anything would be accomplished without titles and levels…the organizational structure.

Organizational structure is a perfect example of what Einstein suggests – how can traditional problem-solving methods serve an organization’s need for a shift in thinking?

Design Thinking?  

According to Wikipedia design thinking refers to creative strategies designers utilize during the process of designing. Design thinking is also an approach that can be used to consider issues, with a means to help resolve these issues, more broadly than within professional design practice and has been applied in business as well as social issues. Design thinking in business uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.

The Design Thinking approach is focused on breaking fixated patterns of thinking in service to unique and original solutions and, yes, this can be applied to the networked model of leadership in an organization. 

Think Wrong!

To break fixated problems, it’s essential to “think wrong” about your hierarchical structure and open minds to a networked model in order to execute the second step in Kotter’s change model.

What happens when you turn your organization chart “upside down?”

An awesome approach I use to encourage leaders and teams to think differently about their structure and hierarchy uses a large organizational chart. Typically, the conversation gets really difficult as participants churn around solving the problem and a different approach to team building to meet their current challenge. Out comes the organizational chart and instead of viewing it as the traditional pyramid of power that is taken for granted…I turn the organization chart upside down. How are the following questions now answered when the organization chart is turned upside down?

  • Who is in control?
  • How does work get done?
  • Where do ideas come from?
  • Who is supporting?
  • Who is leading?

I don’t think I have to tell you how these questions are now answered with the organization chart turned upside down…try it out for yourself!

If you are interested in learning more about the Design Thinking tools I have researched and used, please contact me for a free 20 minute consultation at cmodirector@hotmail.com

I hope you have enjoyed this post and if you have any questions about this post or any of my other posts, please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you. Here is a link to my profile.

All the best!


2 thoughts on ““Think Wrong!” The Best Way to Lead Transformational Change

  1. Leo

    Although there are many modern flat organisations with creative leaders in today’s context. Certain large organisations are still very hierarchical and it is very hard to eliminate the ego problem of the higher managements. Some of them think that they are god and whoever under them will die without them and everyone is suppose to follow their instructions or ‘face the consequences’. But it is interesting reading about the concept of ‘think wrong’. I wish many traditional bosses could read your article.

    1. admin

      HI Leo and thank you for taking the time to comment. Yes, I would hope that traditional bosses would think about “thinking wrong” and turning their organization chart upside down!

      All the best,



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