Category Archives: Innovation

Are they doing it wrong, or just differently?

One of the four I’s in the Bass model is Intellectual Stimulation.  Bass says that transformational leaders involve followers in working through problems and encourage them to find innovative solutions.

While this makes sense, it’s not always easy to do.  I’ve worked with many leaders that have a very difficult time letting people do things in new or different ways.  An important question is to ask “are they doing it wrong, or are they just doing it differently?”

If someone’s approach is going to yield the needed results, within an appropriate time and budget, give them the autonomy to proceed and help them evaluate the new process. You may find that it’s an improvement.

But what if it’s not better?  I worked with a department that saved a lot of time by skipping several unnecessary process steps. Or at least it was working until it was time for the annual report to the regulatory agency. Suddenly those steps were critical and there was a lot of work to re-create them.

When considering intellectual stimulation, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do they clearly understand the goals and boundaries of the problem?
  • How can I help them see the big picture?
  • How can I encourage them to generate creative solutions and support their efforts to try new things?
  • What assumptions may be getting in the way?
  • What barriers can I eliminate?

How did it feel when one of your leaders challenged you in this way?  How can you provide that for others?

Dee Anne Bonebright

 

 

 

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“If you don’t fall, you aren’t learning”

Paul falling 2Last week this photo of my brother crashing showed up in my Facebook feed. Ouch. Having biked with my brother often, I know he got up, checked himself for injuries, and then tried to get over that boulder again – and made it! He took a risk, tried an unknown, fell, figured something out and succeeded. Leaders have to do the same thing. Take risks, be prepared to crash, learn from it and try again.

A recent article in the Telegraph Connect, an online community for leaders, highlighted that successful leaders “will take carefully calculated risks, while accepting that failure is a byproduct of success and innovation.” The key point being that they are calculated risks and a part of a leadership strategy having four parts.

  1. Calculated risks mean predicted success. Assess if your goal is important enough to take a chance. Do your preparation and planning and don’t rush in blindly. And, purposely accept and have a plan for how you will learn from each and every misstep, mistake, blunder or crash!
  2. Failure is a part of experimenting. This requires trust and actually accepting the fact that failure WILL be a part of your career.
  3. Change requires growth. You will operate out of your comfort zone during times of important growth.
  4. Accept failure and build rapport. You can create a culture that takes risks, and then acknowledges, accepts and learns from the failures that inevitably follow.

Growing up my family always shared the phrase I used in the title, “If you aren’t falling, you aren’t trying something new and learning.” Are you encouraging your team to “go for it?”

Todd Thorsgaard

Seek out diverse perspectives

diverse perspectives 2Seeking out diverse perspectives can give leaders an important edge in today’s world. Whether embarking on a enterprise-wide initiative or making decisions that will impact a unit, institution, or community, diverse perspectives can give us the information we need to be more effective. They can keep us honest, keep us from moving into groupthink, and provide a resource to sharpen our thinking and lead to innovative solutions. As leaders, we can truly benefit from a diversity of perspectives!

So how can we as leaders seek out diverse perspectives? Here are a few ideas from the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota. They advise leaders to:

  • Encourage contributions from everyone and give voice to individuals and constituencies not in the room. Those in the room may need to represent stakeholders who are not present.
  • Acknowledge the impact of power and privilege on who speaks and who listens in groups. Be mindful of the status that is accorded to a person because of her or his position, race, ethnicity, economic class background, sexual orientation, gender, religion, ability/disability, education, expertise, and/or profession.
  • Practice respect for others. Listen deeply. Acknowledge and accept difference of opinions. Discern when to voice differences and when to hold them lightly.
  • Appreciate the constructive value of conflict. While conflict can feel hard or uncomfortable, helping a group move through conflict can result in better outcomes for everyone. Learn to tolerate and work through it, rather than smooth it over or ignore it.

Think of a group you lead that has some diversity. Consider who speaks in the group. Who has the most “air-time?” Is everyone heard? In your leadership role, how can you enable every participant to contribute fully?

Anita Rios

Snow storms, bumper cars and highly effective teams?

Best of 2015, first published on February 15, 2015
We just had our first “biggest blizzard in years” yesterday. While it ended up with a modest total amount of snow it did create traffic snarls and many accidents for those working this week. I had the luxury of time off and was able to enjoy the beauty of the snow falling and look forward to skiing. That reminded me of this post that highlighted the value of messiness and collisions! Enjoy.  –Todd Thorsgaard

 

jeopardy

And the answer is?? Planned accidental collisions!

We had a freezing rain and snow “event” yesterday and cars were slipping and sliding into each other by the hundreds. Not a pretty sight but actually a great metaphor for building effective teams. In fact both urban planners and highly successful leaders have been promoting the idea that density and unplanned interactions, or “collisions” can spark creativity and help build an engaged culture at work.

The main idea is that “running” into other people, sharing ideas, asking questions, and listening to what they are working on stimulates our brains and opens us up to more possibilities.

Leaders can make changes in the physical work space and the processes a team uses to facilitate these creative accidental collisions. The department I work in has created an informal work space. Several times while I was using it a colleague has ask me what I was working on and then shared some ideas I had not thought of.

Other ideas you can try to foster “accidental collisions” include:

  • scheduling work and share times where people talk about their projects and others are encouraged to share ideas
  • rotating project team members on a regular basis
  • encouraging people to participate in cross-functional projects
  • inviting representatives from other departments to participate on project teams
  • support participation in professional organizations and interest groups

Creating safe opportunities for people and ideas to collide will help your team succeed over the long run, and they will have more fun!  bumper cars

Todd Thorsgaar

Snow storms, bumper cars and highly effective teams?

jeopardyAnd the answer is?? Planned accidental collisions!

We had a freezing rain and snow “event” yesterday and cars were slipping and sliding into each other by the hundreds. Not a pretty sight but actually a great metaphor for building effective teams. In fact both urban planners and highly successful leaders have been promoting the idea that density and unplanned interactions, or “collisions” can spark creativity and help build an engaged culture at work.

The main idea is that “running” into other people, sharing ideas, asking questions, and listening to what they are working on stimulates our brains and opens us up to more possibilities.

Leaders can make changes in the physical work space and the processes a team uses to facilitate these creative accidental collisions. The department I work in has created an informal work space. Several times while I was using it a colleague has ask me what I was working on and then shared some ideas I had not thought of.

Other ideas you can try to foster “accidental collisions” include:

  • scheduling work and share times where people talk about their projects and others are encouraged to share ideas
  • rotating project team members on a regular basis
  • encouraging people to participate in cross-functional projects
  • inviting representatives from other departments to participate on project teams
  • support participation in professional organizations and interest groups

Creating safe opportunities for people and ideas to collide will help your team succeed over the long run, and they will have more fun!  bumper cars

Todd Thorsgaard

Watering the change garden

In his book Leading Change, John P. Kotter tells a compelling story about a failed change effort. The organization had done all the early steps right and was seeing benefits from the change. Everything was going well.  But then the leaders made a fatal mistake – they forgot to reinforce the new normal. As Kotter described it:

watering3 free to useLittle effort was made to help the new practices grow deep roots, ones that sank down into the core culture or were strong enough to replace it. Shallow roots require constant watering. As long as change agents were there daily with the garden hose, all was well. Without that attention, the practices dried up, withered, and died. Other greenery that had been cut back, but that had deeper roots, took over.

When we’re leading change, we need to think like gardeners. What kind of food and water does the new normal need to grow strong and healthy? Who is watering the change now, and what happens when they are done? What old greenery has the potential to grow back like a weed?

Kotter suggests some steps leaders can take to help reinforce the new normal and discourage the old patterns from reappearing.

  1. Talk frequently about the evidence showing that the new practices are linked to desired outcomes.
  2. Talk frequently about why the old culture existed, why it was needed, and how it is no longer helpful.
  3. Make sure the people in leadership positions are willing and able to support the new culture.
  4. Make sure that new hires are not being informally screened according to the old norms and values.

watering1 free to useCultural issues are often hidden and difficult to change. Just as tending a garden takes time and effort, reinforcing change is an ongoing process. What suggestions do you have for tending the change garden?

–Dee Anne Bonebright

Failure and success

A key strategy for leading change is to empower others to take initiative to support an organization’s change vision and goals. And one of the most important ways a leader can accomplish this is by creating a climate where it is safe to make mistakes.

As we all know, one of the side effects of innovation is failure. You can’t be part of major change efforts without taking risks, and not all risks work out. How we as leaders deal with failure is critical to creating an environment that fosters innovation.

failure free to useThere’s a new trend among some creative companies – the “Heroic Failure Award.”  This award is given an honored place along with the more typical recognition for success. The Wall Street Journal quoted an executive from one of these companies who believed that “if employees try something that was worth trying and fail, and if they are open about it, and if they learn from that failure, that is a good thing.” (Read the article here.)

A contributor to the Harvard Business Review blog made the case for failure even more strongly in a post on “Why I Hire People Who Fail“:

We don’t just encourage risk taking at our offices: we demand failure. If you’re not failing every now and then, you’re probably not advancing. Mistakes are the predecessors to both innovation and success, so it is important to celebrate mistakes as a central component of any culture.

Most of us have a hard time celebrating failure – our own or others’. This mindset may be holding us back from creating the kind of new and innovative solutions we need to address tomorrow’s challenges.

Can you identify a time when you tried something new, failed, and learned from it?

How do you typically respond to employees or colleagues who have failed?

Dee Anne Bonebright