There’s always a risk, when floating any innovative idea, that it will crash against the rocky shores of personal fiefdoms, entrenched power bases and cronyism, both public and private. The often intense resistance to anything that might require real change often comes down to the same silent refrain: I’ve got mine. Don’t mess with it. It’s a stance that can stop innovation dead in its tracks. There may be no better example of how not to innovate than the current state of American politics.
People in the wrong frame of mind can undermine even the most thoughtfully designed innovation processes. Folks in the right frame of mind can overcome many imperfections in those processes. Systems and processes are important in business, but they’re no substitute for enhancing the way people think.
Creative people tend to be intrinsically motivated. This is one of the best researched but least appreciated pieces of the whole innovation equation. It requires a total paradigm shift in the way companies think about motivating employees and what behaviors are valued.
Are you always on the lookout for new innovation and leadership tools? Do you go to conferences looking for the latest techniques to adopt? If you do, you’re in good company but in your search for tools you may be overlooking something much more powerful: behaviors.
No, performance is not what it’s all about. In fact, it’s possible to put too much emphasis on performance…and as a result undermine your business objectives. That’s right, I said “undermine”. Now, before you decide that I’m some sort of heretic…or just came unhinged, hear me out. You may find that you agree with me.
The way organizations review ideas is no doubt heavily impacted by the mental models people hold. Yet those beliefs are rarely surfaced and examined. One of the primary reasons that one person likes almost any idea, while someone else rejects it, has a great deal to do with the mental models each person holds.
Innovative leadership is about being someone who has made this mental shift. It also means giving others the latitude and encouragement they need to do the same. The payoff is an organizational shift away from resistance to change and the tendency to just hunker down, to a much more engaged sense of, “I’m ready world, give me your best shot.”
When we stop using our imagination and fail to constantly pursue fresh insights, frankly, we become a road hazard, a danger to both ourselves and our business. Sticking with the status quo may seem safe but in a changing marketplace it’s a strategy that’s almost certain to fail. Are you looking out the windshield or relying on what you see behind you?
Purpose is a frequently underrated component of the creative process. Yet it’s essential to both leadership and successful innovation. Is your purpose clear and compelling? Is it articulated in ways that encourage participation? Is it reinforced by your personal behaviors? A weak or poorly understood purpose will promote equally weak outcomes. Creativity answers the “How?” What it needs in order to get started is the “Why?”
Curiosity is arguably the single strongest driver behind innovation. It’s an abiding dissatisfaction with the status go that drives us to endlessly seek better answers and better ways and better ideas.