The Challenge of Encouraging Innovation and Finding the Right People to Work With. #26 #cong17

By Simon Cocking.

Simon Cocking #26 Innovation team

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What does it mean to be open to change? Do you really really want to be surprised and inspired by new ideas, or are you just looking to confirm that you don’t need to change? Brainstorming is now of pensionable age, maybe just let it retire quietly, rather than flogging the dead horse that it often is these days.

We are in a great time now when you can just try things out. Make things, rough versions, experiment, but work from a place of having actually done something first.

We have just concluded working with a team of students, as the client for their industry placement. At times we were a little surprised by their lack of initiative, question asking or willingness to just try things out. With real world deadlines and targets, you may not know what the perfect answer is, but you know that doing nothing. Because someone else did not reply to your email is simply not an option in terms of letting a week pass with nothing else tried out. 

Overall though the whole experience, frustrating as it was at times, did enable us to reflect on what it means to encourage innovation, and that it takes more than saying ‘just do it’. For innovation to take place, it is a dance that involves two, or more parties, who have to actually want to engage. One of the team proudly told us that they were a perfectionist. We had to, as nicely as possible, explain that this was not a positive attribute. The pareto principle of 20% of your time achieving 80% of your best results does present you with the challenge of how far towards 100% you then want to go. Simply because, with real world deadlines looming, 85 to 92% might ensure you create something quite to very good. But if you leave your team wanting to tweak it sufficiently to the point they feel is perfect, it might not be ready on the date your client needs it. 

Working backwards from real time deadlines may seem constrictive, but such trade offs do ensure that things are actually completed, and used. They might not be perfect, but they will at least be usable, and keeping a snag list ensures that the ‘would have been nice’ upgrades are rolled into the next iteration of your activities.

People like challenges, and to be challenged, though some will then pushback when you remind them that you have real deadlines. This is when things get interesting, and some will respond and come through for you, and others will engage more time and energy in critiquing why the whole environment was not as conducive as it could have been. The lessons we have learned while you can try to create conditions to encourage innovation, some will flourish in this environment but some will not. The challenge is then to ensure that you encourage those that respond to such dynamic, fluid situations, and try to separate out those who spend more of their time and energy telling you why the idea won’t work. The value of an inspired worker is immense, and the negative impact of someone who resists innovation is equally as impactful in the opposite way too. 

We haven’t worked out all of the right solutions to this challenge, but we have realised the importance of identifying who wants to play ball, and who doesn’t as soon as possible. With the right people onboard though you can move mountains. 

CongRegation © Eoin Kennedy 2017 eoin at congregation dot ie