We hear a lot about innovation and change these days. Everyone is talking about it, every is doing it, or at least trying to. There’s a problem though, change and innovation require more than lip service. Declaring that you are innovative does not make it so.
You know what I’m talking about, someone reads an article, attends a presentation, has a conversation over coffee and comes back to work and says – we’re going to be innovative! Maybe there are even a few committees put together. But then what? Nothing. The committees quit meeting and things go back to the way they were. Maybe one or two people are still trying, but no one is listening.
You know why? Because innovation doesn’t happen by committee or decree.
Organizations do not innovate. People innovate. Inspired people. Fascinated people. Creative people. Committed people. That’s where innovation begins. On the inside.
The organization’s role — just like the individual manager’s role — is to get out of the way. And while this “getting out of the way” will undoubtedly include the effort to formulate supportive systems, processes, and protocols, it is important to remember that systems, processes, and protocols are never the answer. – Mitch Ditkoff
So how do you create a culture of innovation? You start with the people who think differently than you do.
Diversity is one of those sticky terms that people seem to boil down to creating a Benetton ad. Diversity isn’t about some magical collection of five differently colored skin tones. It’s about bringing different perspectives and backgrounds to the table and creating an environment that values what can be gained from different voices who’ve taken different paths. Skin color (or gender performance) is often interpreted as a reasonable substitute for this and, for many reasons, it has been historically. But bringing in a woman whose attitude and approach is just as masculine as the men isn’t going to help your team break outside of its current mindset. They key is to bring people who think differently than you – danah boyd*
Then get out of their way.
Once you’ve hired a good staff, you sit down, you formulate a plan and then you get out of their way. John Limbert
Let them do what you hired them to do.
The really good people want autonomy — you let me do it, and I’ll do it. So I told the people I recruited: “You come in here and you’ve got to keep me informed, but you’re the guy, and you’ll make these decisions. It won’t be me second-guessing you. But everybody’s going to win together. We’re part of a team, but you’re going to run your part.” That’s all they want. They want a chance to do it. – Gordon M. Bethune
You can not force innovation to happen. You can provide the autonomy, the trust to allow people to be innovative.
- Smart Leaders Get out of the way
- Remember to Share the Stage
- Treat Your Staff Like Adults and See What Happens
- Why Your Employees Are Losing Motivation
- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
- Control is an Illusion You Need to Let Go
*danah boyd’s post is about gender issues and being a woman in todays workforce. It’s worth a read (and mostly likely a blog post) in is own right.