Following up my last post on Responding to Change, I wanted to share some thoughts on innovation as I believe it is a key driver of healthy change in any organization.
What do I mean when I refer to innovation? Good question…
I think this looks different depending on the culture that has been developed and the vision you are setting for the future. So, I will stick with the dictionary definition: something new or different being introduced.
In every case, innovation should be driven by a vision for the future in which the “something new” will help bring you a step close to that future.
You can read plenty on this topic from incredibly wise people. Mark Miller and Ken Blanchard would refer to this as “Reinventing Continuously”. This makes complete sense in the business world in order to remain relevant and move with a market that is constantly in motion. Everett Rogers wrote in “Diffusion of Innovations” his thoughts on how ideas make their way into life and culture. He speaks to relative advantage, compatibility, simplicity in messaging, observability, etc. All of the above represent great content and worth your time exploring further.
So, you may be asking, what do you have to offer that would be helpful?
Well, no promises but I am going to give some examples of how I am trying to encourage innovation on the team I help to lead.
1. Think of the whole team
I encourage every person on our team to be aware of and think about the whole organization in addition to their area or department. We are all part of one big team and it would be foolish to think that someone working in another area couldn’t add value elsewhere – and that we as leadership expect it! We all have experiences, gifts and talents that, when used together, make us stronger.
2. Create margin
I have often wondered how many great ideas have been missed simply because they were never given the opportunity to develop in our thought process? If I overload my calendar with a ton of activity and never have time built into my regular rhythm to just think or create, those great ideas will never germinate. Nor will I have the ability to chase them down in the moment if I am running to the next thing. Is innovation a priority? If so, do I give any time to it?
I heard a really great statement from author Jay Baer. He said to think of innovation in your organization as a constantly flowing river as opposed to a lake you go and visit occasionally. The caution here is not to plan a quarterly brainstorming session and hope that innovation simply shows up to the meeting. Without creating margin in our regular rhythms, there is no way a culture can have innovation constantly running through it.
3. Maintain a reasonable pace
As I mentioned in an earlier post, sometimes too much change can be a problem! It can be more disruptive than we want or expect. Our ability to pace ourselves with change will have a direct impact on our effectiveness and whether we are trusted as a leader. If we simply determine an end state and take little to no time to gather information, gain buy in or communicate well, not only will I likely experience failure, but future opportunities for change will be hindered as well. This is an area where I believe that we need to know our team well. Some will respond well to change but others will struggle. If there is too much at one time, they will check out. This brings up my next point…
4. Know the team and your audience
There is great value in having several voices engaged in something new. When those who will be leading others in your organization have a voice into “something new”, they will have a higher degree of buy in. By doing so, you get the benefit of leveraging the trust each leader has built with those they are leading (your audience). Getting buy in is difficult though, especially if you lead a larger group. The more voices, the more difficult it is to gain consensus. Here’s the thing…consensus is not needed for eventual buy in. Someone can disagree with aspects of what is being done, but if they understand it and feel that they had an opportunity to be heard, you increase the likelihood of them buying in. The team I am working with has recently launched something new that is probably the biggest thing the entire team has actively spoke into and developed together. The overall success of this new endeavor is to be seen, but the team is bought in because they helped to develop it. No matter the outcome, that’s a win in my mind!
What are some ways that you encourage innovation?