With the business environment at one of its most dynamic periods in history, it can be a struggle to get people to work outside of their well-defined roles and comfort zones.
And the management practices of the last fifty years aren’t much help. Consider scorecards that are set and reviewed on an annual basis. They seem woefully disconnected from the speed with which your market is changing and your people may need to respond. It’s why Design Thinking and Lean Startup have captured an unfair share of management attention.What can you do?
As a leader of a small team or a large organization, you are in a great position to cultivate innovative behavior.
First, you should be familiar with the principles and methods used to do innovative work: Deeply understanding your customer’s experience; Framing a problem creatively; Prototyping and testing ideas quickly.
Next, you need to enable others in your organization to work in more innovative ways. You are in a position to advocate for interesting work. You can create the conditions for more innovative behaviors.Your mindset, behavior and expectations can be a huge catalyst for change.
We all have a terrible proclivity to want to judge an idea as good or bad. Yet “an idea” is only a small part of any new, innovative solution. An innovative solution requires hundreds of ideas.Ideas are not fully formed when we first think of them. As you take an idea and sketch it or make a prototype, all sorts of issues begin to emerge. “Oh, it probably has to be smaller.” “It doesn’t work in this situation.” “How will people carry it?”
While ideas are important, the real value is created as you shape ideas over time into a solution.What does this mean for leadership behavior?
Start by assessing how you evaluate ideas in your organization. Do you evaluate ideas as if they are good or bad? Is your mindset that you will pick the good ideas over the bad ones?
These behaviors kill promising initiatives long before they have a chance of developing.
Worst of all, do you evaluate and question the value of a project by noting all the reasons it won’t work? There are many reasons why any initiative “won’t work.” That’s what will be worked on during the project.
Instead, start cultivating your team’s ability to iterate and shape ideas for value. Encourage forward momentum rather than questioning value. Evaluate the speed with which the team turns around a new version and how much more value is created with that iteration.
Each iteration should prove more promising. You should feel momentum accelerating. It should not feel like you are evaluating new ideas at the same level each time. It should feel as if the solution is getting stronger and more viable.
This doesn’t mean you can avoid making tough choices and killing projects. But you won’t be stopping them because you thought they were a bad idea. You’ll stop them because they aren’t the best option in the portfolio of solutions that you are shaping.
None of these leadership behaviors are revolutionary. But they are different than the management principles that have ruled business for the past 50 years. It’s no longer about having all the answers and being the most experienced.
Can you be more curious and engage in speculative conversations? Do you believe a lot can be learned outside the walls of your organization? Will you invest in your organization’s ability to prototype ideas quickly? Can you get your teams to be really good at shaping ideas for more and more value?Pick one of these and work on it this week. Or share this article with your colleagues and decide which behavior is a priority to cultivate.
I guarantee you will see a quick impact.