Gwen@GwenKinsey.com / 605-212-8462

Innovation…meet the people part

Innovation…meet the people part

How to improve leadership for cultural innovation?

The bulk of material I come across on creativity and innovation are articles, papers, and blogs that frame a context for process and systems that get more creativity and innovation into our workplace.There is far less material exploring the people part in the business press…especially as it relates to the role of CEO. It is much easier to look outside of oneself for solutions that fall to the other guy. When do we turn our attention inward? How do our personal beliefs and need for conformity interfere? As leaders, if we can’t hold ourselves accountable for the learning self scrutiny provides, how can we credibly expect others to undergo the same self-reflection and subsequent behavioral changes?

There are many stumbling blocks that can interfere with innovation. In this post, I want to focus on one: our need for conformity. Some would say its a biological imperative… mimicry. It’s how we learn as infants and on a deeper level, it may help animals sort themselves by a pretty fundamental difference–prey or predator?

Which one of these things is not like the other?

A hallmark of creativity is the ability to connect disparate bits of information, data, insights, etc. Putting things that normally don’t belong together to create something new and potentially better is a good thing, right? But how does the shadow aspect of “different” sabotage our creativity?

This is who we are…and how we do things

I talked with a perspective client last night. I thought it was interesting that this person was already working with a coach paid for by their employer. I was curious about why someone would pay for their own coaching if they were already getting it for “free”. This individual was recruited by the company and was fresh from a company off site making me even more curious about what was going on. They were hired to help bring the company product to a new market for a different industry than the one the company had served.

The tale that unfolded was sad but so common. I heard how the new launch was getting no traction. In fact, little planning was done prior to the launch. Senior company members were too busy to make it a priority with everything else on the plate.The new market segment would just magically follow the same sales trajectory of the established one. At the offsite, this individual watched as person after person agreed to go along to get along as an outside consultant/facilitator took the group through the days activities.

Isn’t it easy to spot the pitfalls when you read this? Why are we so blind when it comes to our own organization or our own need to exact conformity rather than work through the discomfort that comes with working with someone who is different or has a different point of view?

Take the mirror test

How are you affected when faced with something new? How do you embrace other points of view? Can you get curious? When was the last time you sought someone out who was different or who had a different way of approaching a problem? Where have you placed different or diversity as a value in your life or your organization?

What makes you different from these guys? BTW, the client faces the mirror test as well…assimilate or move on?

Are you sure you are ready for different…creativity…innovation?

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