Jessica Higgins, JD MBA is a highly credentialed and experienced business growth consultant. She gets involved in unique opportunities at the crossroads of finance, technology, and marketing to create innovative growth. She holds investment and advisory positions in a portfolio of companies and is a published author who writes about her business and personal passions. Her first book, The 10 Essential Business Communications Skills, released at #1 on Amazon New Releases for Communication and Behavior Skills. She has given keynote speeches on topics ranging from culture to emergent technologies. in addition to her graduate degrees in law and business, and her undergraduate degrees in behavioral psychology and political science, She Holds certifications in operations management, operations design and behavioral design. she lives in Miami, FL, San Diego, CA and Washington, DC.

For speaking engagements, interviews and other inquiries please contact her publicist, Kat Fleischman, at 

Capability, Affability, Contribution

Not mutually exclusive, although you will tend to find this in business.

It's not as much about the individuals within the team as it is the context within which the team is created and the context within which they are fostered.

As we move into a hyper-digitized world, things are changing more quickly than ever, and therefore creative outcomes are more of a requisite with increasing speed. In the converse, those who cannot keep up are more defensive and overly-sensitive than ever. This is not about you personally, but about others' inert acknowledgement of subconscious incapability in an increasingly fast world. 

In layman's terms, if you find someone acting defensive, it is because, often, they know they can't keep up. This is your mindset challenge to overcome, in yourself and in others. If you are stuck on a team that is less than growth-oriented, moving from a fear-based mindset to a growth mindset requires a lot of influence to help others find their awareness. For truly incapable people, it can take serious time and effort. Here's what you can test, ideate and create to help you along the way: 

1. Do the individuals within your group have a growth, or a scarcity mindset?

2. Are they all on a common mission? 

3. Is contribution acknowledged, felt and received?

I was asked which team is my favorite to work with recently, but I find that this is less about people than it is about context. The best teams work in a space of empathy and possibility. They actively give credit, they actively take blame, and they do not punish one another because they recognize the value of understanding over absolutes and correctness.

These little details can kill or seed even the best of ideas and the best of talent.

As the rate of change is increasing in our world, these valuable attributes of capability, affability and contribution are dwindling. It's not entirely the fault of individuals, but more the fault of awareness as your lizard brain receded into a scarcity space of "I am incapable, and therefore I am taking versus giving." The issue being, at a sociocultural level, we want to work with givers and hide from takers, making teamwork worsen over time as we move toward increasing digital and transformational pressures. So if one of these factors is out of balance, all worsen. People love to work with givers, givers hate to be used, and everyone hates takers. Welcome to the dwindling world of increasing human suffering and decreasingly meaningful collaboration. This is all an outcome of heavy contextual change, actually, and not human capability or motivation, unless the people on your team are stubborn and dumb, that is. 

These unproductive forces come at teams from a variety of angles, both of mindset, of community, of leadership, or of physical environment. However, don't be afraid. Be aware.

There are no inherently bad teams, but there can be bad leaders, bad cultural practices and bad selection processes. These can create terrible interactions, and terrible mindsets. When contribution becomes a battle of attribution, with decreasing acknowledgement and increasing defensiveness, what you have is poisonous collaboration. You have a snake eating its own tail instead of seeking actual food. 

Therefore, contribution dwindles, affability recedes, and quite frankly you end up with people pretending and not doing much else. 

I see us moving toward a lack of empathy, affability and acknowledgement more so than ever not because people are more entitled than before (a common mis-root cause published in HBR and other journals) but because people are defensive of their own perceived, and often actual, incapability to contribute in an increasingly fast world. And if they do collaborate, and others are threatened, the contributor is admonished, instead of nourished. This is all very Pavlovian: punish an action for bad cause and you shall change the frequency and likelihood of an action for the worse.

But hey, it's hard to keep up, and much easier to be defensive.

You need more of a growth mindset than ever now. If the increasing pace of change and your pace of growth are not tracking each other, a predicament will ensue. It's just a matter of when.

Uninterested people fall behind more quickly, as do those who resist. More so than ever before. If you are not learning, you are somehow full of blame and excuses. There is no regression analysis to prove this logically, but there is plenty of emotional data within teamwork environments.

And if you find yourself not liking one another, it's more likely a result of defensiveness than the likelihood you've been paired with the devil. It is your job to learn, to connect, to contribute and to keep your defenses down despite your reflexive senses telling you otherwise.

If you fear change, if you fear human connection, if you fear curiosity or if you fear individual contribution, you have every right to do so, because you are your own worst enemy and the worst enemy of your team. On the other hand, if you appreciate one another, you are probably a lot more successful as a collective whole. And you will actually do the things you meant to do when you joined a team in the first place. If you were just seeking asylum in your team, then welcome to the scarcity mindset that is the root cause of your problem already.

Regardless, we can all improve ourselves and we can all grow. Start by contributing more, taking less, learning more, seeking more, and rewarding more. 



Jessica Higgins is a public speaker, strategic consultant and a published author on creating end-to-end culture design solutions in healthcare, higher education, governments and large corporations. Her team's clients include Microsoft, Zappos, Roche, AT&T, Pfizer, L'Oreal, US Bank, Babson College, and many others. She splits her time between Miami, FL and Scottsdale, AZ.

Toronto Talk: Influencing Broad Sweeping Changes in Support of Your Innovative Ideas

Toronto Talk: Influencing Broad Sweeping Changes in Support of Your Innovative Ideas

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