Holly Green

May 312013
 

cartoon of business man on high wireSuccess in business is a wonderful thing. But it’s also a double-edged sword.

As companies experience success, their emphasis tends to shift to protecting and maintaining the status quo versus considering new opportunities and products. Unfortunately, clinging to what has worked in the past puts the brakes on innovation. It also puts you out of touch with your customers’ changing needs — a dangerous circumstance in today’s highly volatile markets.

If you’re trying to innovate but not having success, see if any of these apply to your organization.

1. Stuck thinking.
This occurs when individuals and teams get so locked into old ideas, attitudes, and assumptions that they don’t take the time to update them. In addition to favoring the “don’t rock the boat” mindset, stuck thinking also manifests itself in behaviors such as:

  • A lack of diverse sources in your data collection process
  • Little or no conflict during meetings
  • A rush to consensus when making decisions
  • Risk-taking is actively discouraged
  • New ideas are suppressed rather than encouraged

If you haven’t asked yourself within the last three to six months, “What has changed about our customers, our markets and our industry?” you’ve just taken your first step toward anti-innovation.

2. We’ve always done it that way.
When the organizational focus shifts to protecting the status quo, people stop looking for new processes or solutions. When problems arise, people tend to default to the solution that looks most like what has worked in the past rather than exploring new ideas or different ways of doing things.

Compounding this tendency to look to the past is the fact that we are trained from a very early age to come up with “the” right solution. When something threatens the status quo, the brain scans the environment, identifies what worked in the past, and leaps to the conclusion that it will work once again. In a world of rapid-fire change, this tendency to reach into the past for quick solutions does not serve us well.

3. Playing not to lose.
As leaders spend more time protecting current assets rather than defining and executing edge-centric strategy, the organizational mindset changes from “play to win” to “play not to lose.” This subtle shift in attitude has a profound impact on how decisions get made and how people behave at all levels of the organization.

Innovation requires a constant flow of new ideas to keep up with rapidly changing customer needs and expectations. When you play to win, it creates an atmosphere and energy that brings out the best in people. When you play not to lose, people tend to just “suit up and show up,” which does not foster an environment conducive to rethinking how things get done.

4. Customer disconnect.
Who has time to talk to customers anymore? We’re running as fast as we can just to get the product out the door! Besides, we know what our customers need and we know the best way to give it to them, right? You won’t hear this attitude spoken out loud. But if you look closely, you can see it driving behavior on a daily basis. If you’re not talking with customers, it also means you’re not listening. And if you’re not listening, it’s just a matter of time before you’re no longer relevant to their world.

5. The lone ranger approach.
In many companies, one team or small department gets tasked with innovation. That’s like asking a single NASA engineer to develop a new rocket ship to take us to Mars. In the vast majority of cases, innovation is a team effort that requires a combination of skills and talents from all areas of the organization. It also requires open and honest communication across all levels. Innovation does not flourish in isolated silos or hidden corners.

6. Failure not an option.
This represents perhaps the biggest obstacle to innovation and the hardest to overcome. Most organizations don’t tolerate failure very well to begin with. And once the mindset shifts to protecting the golden goose, failure becomes anathema to the organization.

But failure goes hand-in-hand with innovation. If you’re not failing to some degree, you’re not trying or pushing hard enough. This doesn’t mean to disregard risk or tolerate poorly planned disasters. But if all failure gets punished, any attempts at coming up with new ideas, systems, or processes will quickly cease to exist.

7. Follow the leader mentality.
Too often, attempts to innovate occur as a response to a new entry into the market or an existing competitor’s innovation. However, true innovation leads the way rather than attempting to catch up. Don’t ignore what your competitors do in the marketplace. But don’t let it drive your innovation efforts. Figure out where your customers will need you to be in six months to a year and get there first.

8. Weak hires.
Companies looking to protect their success often make a subtle shift in hiring. Rather than new ideas and new energy, people get hired for their ability to “come in and hit the ground running.” Which is another way of saying they won’t rock the boat. As the overall talent level begins to decline, so do new ideas, new thinking, and successful innovation.

9. Lack of know-how.
Employees need to have the appropriate skills and abilities to discover, evaluate, and execute on the best ideas. If you don’t invest the time and money to constantly develop those skills, don’t expect people to innovate on a consistent basis.

10. Unrealistic expectations.
As success begins to slip away, management often begins looking for that one “killer” product or idea that will save the company or at least prolong the life of the cash cow. This tendency to put all the resources into one make-or-break innovation effort usually ends in disaster and disappointment.

Remember, innovation should always link directly to your strategy. And it works when it becomes a way of life rather than a one-time event. Stop clinging to past successes, update your thinking constantly and you will find it much easier to innovate and thrive in today’s hyper-paced world.


About the Author:

Holly Green has a BA in behavioral sciences and Master of Science degree in organizational development from American University in Washington, D.C. She is currently on staff at Webster University where she teaches courses in the graduate program. Holly also teaches for the University of California San Diego, Rady School of Management in the executive education program.Ms. Green is the CEO of THE HUMAN FACTOR, Inc. ( www.thehumanfactor.biz ) She has over 20 years of executive level and operations experience in FORTUNE 100, entrepreneurial, and management consulting organizations. She conducts more than 50 workshops annually for Vistage, the world’s largest CEO membership organization. She is also a frequent keynote speaker for numerous corporate and professional associations. Her book, More Than A Minute: How To Be An Effective Leader & Manager In Today’s Changing World ( www.MoreThanaMinute.com ) lends voice to her corporate experience and goes beyond the theory of leading and managing by providing practical action oriented information.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?Anti-Innovation:-10-Proven-Ways-Not-to-Innovate&id=6924305

Apr 262013
 

a cartoon of a person's head with gearsThe human brain is a marvelous tool. However, it was designed for a very different world than we currently live in. As a result, it retains many design flaws that do not serve us well, especially in today’s business world where new ways of thinking and ongoing innovation are essential for success.

Perhaps the most damaging flaw is the brain’s tendency to think it’s right. In fact, it often insists it is right even in the face of contradictory evidence. So the next time you’re absolutely, positively sure you’re right, consider these 10 reasons not to trust your brain:

1. It jumps to conclusions.
The brain loves to solve problems. But as soon as a solution presents itself, the brain wants to accept it as the solution. Case closed – let’s move on to the next problem! No seeking alternative answers; no exploring possibilities. Not a good approach considering most business problems have more than one good solution and the act of exploring multiple right answers often opens doors to all sorts of success.

2. It sees what it wants to see.
The brain acts as a filter, constantly screening in and screening out information. Unfortunately, it tends to screen out information that contradicts our prevailing view of the world and let in that which supports it. Ever been jilted by a romantic partner and wondered why you were the last to know? Ever been sure you had the right data and looked at the information again to find you were way off? The signs were usually there all along. Your brain just didn’t want to see them.

3. It distorts incoming information.
The brain also twists and distorts incoming information so that it aligns with our attitudes, beliefs, and assumptions. If you don’t believe this, try watching Fox News or MSNBC. They make a living out of taking the same information and twisting it to suit their own agendas. Our brains do the same thing; they just don’t get to do it on national TV most days.

4. It ignores the obvious (and then tries to justify it).
We know that drunk driving is dangerous, and texting behind the wheel is even worse. Yet we do them anyway. Why? Because our brain tells us we won’t get caught. Or, it assures us we won’t get in an accident. Or, we really are that important that we have to respond immediately and ignore the safety of ourselves and others. After all, it always happens to someone else, right?

5. It’s not designed for multitasking.
In today’s time-deprived, hyper-paced world, our brain wants to convince us of the virtues of multitasking. Yet, research shows again and again that multitasking increases stress, inhibits creativity, and makes us less efficient. Pause and think about that the next time you try to do five things at once!

6. It constantly makes stuff up.
In the absence of information, we make stuff up. We do it all the time, and then we believe it to be true! Our brain won’t live with a void so it fills in the blanks. Most of what we make up is negative, and usually worse than the truth. Just listen to your internal dialog the next time the boss calls you into her office and you don’t know what for.

7. It seeks to avoid threats rather than pursue opportunities.
Coming up with new ideas and new ways of doing things requires going out on a limb. However, in most cases the brain will choose avoidance of pain over the pleasure of some future reward. Not a good way to support innovation, which includes a certain amount of pain (failure) in order to succeed.

8. It wants to stick with the known.
When stressed, the brain seeks comfort in what it is familiar with – even when it becomes obvious that the old way is no longer working. That’s why people stay in bad jobs or bad relationships. That’s why leaders hang on to projects that are clearly losing money and sucking up resources that could be better applied elsewhere. Our brains like what is familiar, not necessarily what is the best for us.

9. It thinks everyone else sees the world the same way.
Logically, we know this isn’t true. But when presenting a new idea or a solution to a problem, how often do we unconsciously assume that everyone in the room sees it the same way? Then we wonder why people look at us like we’re from another planet.

10. It has too much confidence in its own abilities.
Research shows that experts are only slightly more accurate than non-experts when making predictions in their fields. Moreover, when confronted with their errors, the experts almost never blamed their thinking or changed their beliefs. Instead, most attributed their mistakes to outside factors beyond their control. The next time your brain insists you’re right because you’re an expert in your field or “we’ve always done it that way,” you might want to step back and look at the situation from a different perspective.

Getting the best of your brain

What can you do to counteract these brain design flaws?

  • Constantly challenge your ideas, attitudes, and assumptions about your business and your customers.
  • Scan the horizon for emerging threats, especially those beyond your industry. Actively seek out data that disagrees with your current point of view.
  • Make your thinking process visible to others by stating your assumptions and describing the data that led to them. Publicly test your conclusions by encouraging people to give feedback.
  • When problem solving, don’t just accept the first good solution that comes along. Instead, pause to ask, “Does anyone else see it differently? What if there’s a better way?”
  • Don’t make decisions without hard data. Establish processes for verifying and validating your data. An ounce of accurate information outweighs a ton of assumptions that may or may not be true.
  • Ask “What if… ?” questions. “What if our ‘right’ answer is wrong? What if there is another way to look at this problem? What if we looked at it from the customer’s perspective; how would they solve this problem?”
  • Develop more focus. Talk about winning relentlessly. Use visuals to keep yourself and others focused on the goal. Each morning ask, “Will what I do today make a difference a year from now?”

Finally, never take your success for granted. Just because something worked for you in the past does not guarantee that it will continue to work in the future.

Albert Einstein once said, “Two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the universe.” I don’t think we’re stupid. But I do believe we get hoodwinked by our own brains because we don’t check in with them to see what’s really going on.

Call to action: Pick one of these brain flaws and start to notice when it occurs. How does it impact your decision-making?

About The Author:
As CEO and Managing Director of THE HUMAN FACTOR, Inc., Holly helps business leaders and their companies achieve excellence by creating clarity on what winning looks like and determining how to get there. She will help you achieve alignment and focus your organization so everyone is in the same race. Her unique approach to strategic agility, alignment and engagement – based on the approach Pause, Think, Focus, Run – provides the tools, techniques, and skills companies need to reach their destinations and achieve their goals.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Holly_Green http://EzineArticles.com/?10-Good-Reasons-Not-to-Trust-Your-Brain&id=7329064

Apr 082013
 

beautiful woman with stylish glassesLast week I wrote about a stodgy safety products manufacturer that dramatically increased sales of its goggles by studying fashion trends. I’m not suggesting we all start subscribing to Vogue, Glamour or Elle (although maybe that is not a bad idea). What we do need to do is start looking beyond the walls of our businesses on a regular basis.

Innovation doesn’t always require pulling groundbreaking ideas out of thin air. In fact, in today’s markets innovation increasingly comes from two sources: learning to see patterns where others don’t, and finding ways to adapt what others are already doing to our business models. For most of us, this requires expanding our sources of information, as well as stretching our brains to get us thinking differently and looking at the world in new ways.

Expand your sources of information
Over the course of a single year, the typical American reads 100 newspapers and 36 magazines, and watches almost 2,500 hours of television. We also listen to more than 700 hours of radio, buy three books and 20 CDs, and talk on the phone for more than 500 hours. And that doesn’t include texts, tweets, updates, pokes and all the other social media stuff many of us now do on a daily basis.

Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Maybe so, but for most people it comes from the same sources over and over again, especially in business. As leaders, we tend to gather data about our customers, markets, and industries while paying scant attention to what goes on outside our companies or industry.

To expand your data-gathering horizons, make a list of all your information sources according to the percentage of data they provide. Then ask questions like: How much time do we spend collecting information? What are our primary sources of data? Are these still reliable sources for our business or industry? What if we looked somewhere else?

Conduct a cold-eye review
Another technique for gaining fresh perspectives is to have non-experts research various aspects of your business. For example, have your CFO look at customer data, your head of manufacturing look at customer info, and so on.When done well, this “cold eye review” often finds the obvious (things previously missed because everyone is used to them) and occasionally finds the unique.

Cold eye reviewers can uncover unsafe conditions in a plant because workers stopped seeing the situation a long time ago. They can identify new applications for a current product because they don’t know what it’s supposed to do or not do. They can also uncover significant opportunities to reduce costs, cut cycle time, and/or dramatically shift processes because they don’t know about the way things “are supposed to be.”

Have your cold eye reviewer give a presentation that communicates their general approach to the review, the data found, a summary of key points, and any recommendations. Follow that up with any questions you might have, and a discussion of what is possible based on the data presented.

Stimulate your brain
In order to adapt ideas from other areas, it helps to loosen up our brains with the following techniques:

  • Go outside.Go outside your office, take off your shoes, and walk barefoot in the grass. Breathe deeply and just listen to the sounds. You’ll be amazed how these simple tactile sensations can take your brain in a whole different direction.
  • Stretch.I mean really stretch — first your body and then your mind. Stand up and lift your arms above your head. Roll your shoulders. Inhale and exhale slowly. Now pause and think about something from a different perspective. Ask yourself, “What if it could be different? What if there is a better way? Who have I met this week and what did I learn from them? How can I apply what I learned?”
  • Do a “walking sponge” session.Take a walk and try to absorb as many new ideas as you can. Turn off your thinker and focus on seeing, hearing, feeling and smelling.
  • Daydream.Let your mind wander. Instead of trying to think of an idea or solution, don’t try. Let your subconscious work on it for a while.

If these don’t grab you, just try something different. If you’re right-handed, use your left. Drive home from work a different way. If you bring a sandwich for lunch every day, bring a salad. Or better still, some kind of ethnic food you’ve never had before.

Trying something familiar in a different way just might loosen up your thinking and let you see the world in a different way. You’ll be amazed at what putting on a new pair of goggles can reveal to you (and you’ll look really fashionable doing it)

About the Author:
Holly Green has a BA in behavioral sciences and Master of Science degree in organizational development from American University in Washington, D.C. She is currently on staff at Webster University where she teaches courses in the graduate program. Holly also teaches for the University of California San Diego, Rady School of Management in the executive education program.Ms. Green is the CEO of THE HUMAN FACTOR, Inc. ( www.thehumanfactor.biz ) She has over 20 years of executive level and operations experience in FORTUNE 100, entrepreneurial, and management consulting organizations. She conducts more than 50 workshops annually for Vistage, the world’s largest CEO membership organization. She is also a frequent keynote speaker for numerous corporate and professional associations. Her book, More Than A Minute: How To Be An Effective Leader & Manager In Today’s Changing World ( www.MoreThanaMinute.com ) lends voice to her corporate experience and goes beyond the theory of leading and managing by providing practical action oriented information.!

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Holly_Green http://EzineArticles.com/?Putting-On-a-New-Pair-of-Goggles&id=6668868

Mar 292013
 

Question mark made from colorful thought baloonsI would love to see the following sign outside every strategic planning conference room:

Strategic Planning Session in Progress

No Thought Bubbles Allowed!

Of course, it will never happen because we can’t get rid of our thought bubbles. What we can do is take a careful inventory of them and update those that no longer align with current market conditions. That way, our thought bubbles won’t derail our strategic planning processes by causing us to make decisions that have no foundation in reality.

Thought bubbles are the deeply held beliefs and assumptions we have about every aspect of ourselves, others, our organizations, and our lives. Operating just below the conscious level, they determine how and what we perceive, and guide how we think and act.

Thought bubbles tend to be self-reinforcing. They are always incomplete. They can limit our ability to achieve results. And they require constant updating to remain current.

During strategic planning, thought bubbles typically manifest themselves through hidden biases that affect how we analyze data and make (or don’t make) important decisions. Here are some examples of common strategic planning biases and the thought bubbles that might accompany them:

Bias: Status quo comfort.
Description: The tendency for people to like things to stay relatively the same.
Thought bubble: “We’ve always set goals at 5% higher than last year. Why should we change now?”

Bias: The bandwagon effect.
Description: The tendency to do or believe things because others do the same.
Thought bubble: “Nobody else in our industry is doing that. Why should we?”

Bias: Hindsight bias.
Description: The inclination to see past events as being predictable.
Thought bubble: “I knew that was going to happen! Why didn’t anyone listen?”

Bias: Information bias.
Description: The tendency to seek information even when it can’t affect action.
Thought bubble: “We can’t make a decision now, we need more data!”

Bias: Projection bias.
Description: Unconsciously assuming that others share the same or similar thoughts, beliefs, values or positions.
Thought bubble: “I’m glad everyone’s with me on this one.” (without checking for validation)

Bias: Technical myopia.
Description: The tendency to look at things according to the conventions of one’s own profession, forgetting any broader point of view.
Thought bubble: “They don’t have my background or training. What do they know?!”

Bias: Herd instinct.
Description: Adopting the opinions and following the behaviors of the majority to feel safer and avoid conflict.
Thought bubble: “Everyone seems to agree with her. Who am I to rock the boat?”

I could list dozens more. But the real issue is not just identifying our thought bubbles. It’s what we do with them.

Stop shutting down your brain

For many, the biggest challenge with thought bubbles is simply becoming aware of them. Here’s the #1 clue: if an issue triggers an instantaneous emotional reaction, you’re in the grips of a thought bubble. And the more intense the emotion, the more powerful the thought bubble and the stronger your belief in its validity.

Other ways to recognize when thought bubbles come bubbling to the surface include:

  • Any time you find yourself saying “clearly…, it’s obvious….”
  • Getting defensive when people challenge you
  • Feeling threatened by a statement, idea or issue
  • Feeling like others are stupid for having a different point of view
  • Refusing to even consider an idea because “you know it isn’t true”

One of the most common thought bubble signals is using the word “but.” As in, “That’s a good idea, but…..” As soon as you say “but,” it negates everything that came before it. Your “but” thoughts shut down your brain from processing other possibilities while it works to validate whatever opinion or belief you currently have. It also puts the other person on the defensive and shuts down the conversation rather than opening the issue up for exploration. So one of the first rules in thought bubble bursting is to eliminate your “but”.

To avoid letting other thought bubbles dominate your decision-making, become more aware of how you react to issues. Any time you have a strong, instantaneous emotional reaction, pause and ask yourself:

  • Why am I reacting so strongly to this issue?
  • What is my underlying assumption or belief that is being challenged?
  • Is this assumption or belief still true?
  • Is it time for me to update my bubble?
  • What do I stand to lose by having this assumption challenged?

Another good way to become more aware of your thought bubbles is to start paying attention to them off the job. As you go about your personal activities, make note of what you’re not saying out loud, what you’re focusing on, or even daydreaming about because the unique ways our brains process this data and come to conclusions do not always serve us well.

Suppose you’re driving on the freeway and someone abruptly cuts you off. Your immediate response is probably, “What a jerk!” But what if the person didn’t see you? Or what if they swerved to avoid hitting an animal in the road? There may have been several legitimate reasons for the driver’s behavior.

Pausing to examine your thought bubble helps to understand that it is based on emotion rather than logical processing of actual data. That way, you can make the conscious decision to let it go instead of driving home angry because “the world is full of jerks” (another thought bubble). As you become more aware of your thought bubbles away from the office, you will likely become more aware of them on the job as well.

When we pause to examine a thought bubble, we can use our brain to layer logic on top of the emotion. We can recognize the thought bubble as an unspoken assumption and seek new data to test it for validity. The problem is we don’t take the time to pause because we’re running so fast from the time we wake up until we put our head on the pillow at night.

We can’t get rid of our thought bubbles; that’s just the way the human brain works and they are important to us in many very positive ways. We can periodically stop responding to them in knee-jerk fashion by becoming aware of when they occur, pausing to check our reaction, and then responding in a more rational manner.

Monitor your emotional responses, eliminate your “but,” and you’ll start making much better decisions during your next strategic planning meeting!

About The Author:
Holly Green is the CEO of THE HUMAN FACTOR, Inc. ( http://www.thehumanfactor.biz ) She has over 20 years of executive level and operations experience in FORTUNE 100, entrepreneurial, and management consulting organizations.

Green’s background stretches across strategic planning, organization design and development, and leadership assessment and development. She has been responsible for successfully designing and building critical infrastructures in several organizations and has worked as both an internal and external resource for multinational corporations including: AT&T, Dell Computer, Bass Hotels & Resorts, Expedia, RealNetworks, Microsoft and Google. She was previously president of The Ken Blanchard Companies, a global consulting and training organization, and the biotech firm LumMed.

Her commitment to educating executives on how to be effective leaders and managers in today’s changing world is evident with a proven track record of value-added delivery. As a sought-after speaker and consultant, she has received national recognition and in 2007 was honored as a dynamic business leader and role model receiving the Women Who Mean Business Award.

Holly conducts more than 50 workshops annually for Vistage, the world’s largest CEO membership organization. She is also a frequent keynote speaker for numerous corporate and professional associations. Her book, More Than A Minute: How To Be An Effective Leader & Manager In Today’s Changing World ( http://www.MoreThanaMinute.com ) lends voice to her corporate experience and goes beyond the theory of leading and managing by providing practical action oriented information.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Holly_Green http://EzineArticles.com/?Eliminate-Your-But!&id=6624430

Feb 272013
 

Word impossible transformed into possibleHow often do you hear these kinds of phrases in your company? Or worse, how often do you say them?

-We already tried that; it’ll never work.
-Nothing’s wrong with the way we’re doing it now, so why rock the boat?
-If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
-This looks risky; why should we spend money on something new that might not work out?
-We considered that idea several times in the past but it never penciled out.
-If there were a better way to do this, we would already have thought of it.
-I’m all for new products, but I don’t think the market is ready for this one yet.
-If something goes wrong, our jobs could be on the line.
-Remember what happened the last time we tried something new that didn’t work?

For the most part, these are well-meaning phrases from well-intentioned people. But they stem from innate brain patterns that do not always serve us well in today’s hyper-paced business world. And they slam the door on innovation by discarding good ideas before they can be fully evaluated. When you constantly slam the door in the face of new ideas, it isn’t long before they stop knocking altogether.

At the root of the problem is the natural (and powerful) human tendency to want to protect the status quo – even when we logically know we have to change to keep up or lead. Because they have so much to lose, large successful organizations are especially prone to asset protection, spending much more energy and resources protecting what is versus constantly creating or exploring what could be next.

Opening the door to new ideas and innovation requires taking deliberate steps to overcome the built-in brain patterns that lead us to automatically reject anything new. Here’s how.

Get brain savvy
Educate employees about how to become more aware of their thinking processes and illogical “thought bubbles” regarding innovation. Thought bubbles are those voices in our heads that instantly crop up when we consider something new (as in the list above).

Thought bubbles typically involve strong emotions because they come from the old part of the brain. If you feel threatened, defensive, challenged, or “positively, absolutely sure” that it’s a dumb idea, chances are you’ve got a thought bubble coursing through your head.

Any time you experience an instantaneous, powerful emotional reaction to a new idea, take a moment to consider why you’re reacting so strongly. Look at your underlying assumptions or beliefs being challenged and ask: is my assumption still true? Is it time for me to update by bubble? What do I stand to lose by having this assumption or belief challenged?

Expose yourself (and others)
Teach all managers and leaders to expose themselves (in a legally appropriate manner of course!) by sharing their thinking process. For example, “Here’s the data I have, this is what I believe it means, and therefore I have made these assumptions and recommend these actions… ” Then ask for feedback, especially from people with different points of view.

Expose the thinking of others by asking, “What data do you have and what do you believe it indicates or means? Walk me through how you got to that conclusion. Help me understand what led you to believe that… ”

Laying out your thinking process for all to see gives you a powerful tool for improving communication and gaining understanding and alignment among teams. It helps you see your own thinking process from a different perspective. Although it may feel like it is slowing you down to do this, you will get to where you want to go faster since you won’t have to do it over when you find out someone else processed or thought about the decision a little differently!

Regularly visit the land of “what if… ?”
Most new ideas live in the land of “what if… ?,” a magical place where almost anything is possible until someone comes along and quashes the idea. Get in the habit of visiting this land by asking questions like:

  • What if we considered this from our customer’s or competitor’s perspective?
  • What if an investor were going to buy us? Does what we’re currently doing add to our value?
  • What if we had to cut the time and resources on our current product in half?

To create more “what if” thinking in your organization, develop the habit of using neuroprompts in meetings and discussions. These are questions, statements, or visuals that trigger our brains to pause and think about what they’re working on and why.

Embed your neuroprompts in core operating processes, such as business and talent reviews, by asking, “What new ideas were introduced this past month/quarter? What did we invest in exploring them? What did we learn from that process, and what can be applied to the next time? How much did we fail?” (If you aren’t failing some of the time, you’re not trying hard enough!)

Flex your innovation “muscles”
Strive to develop the habits that lead to successful innovation. For example, constantly seek out new and diverse sources of data. That way, the next time someone says, “We already tried that and it doesn’t work,” you can respond with, “I have some data that suggests otherwise; let’s explore this some more, or I came across some great examples from other industries that could apply to us now… ”

Identify a specific innovation target and focus on it every day. Change your perspective, by frequently scanning the horizon for new and emerging trends, both inside and outside your industry. Actively seek out data that disagrees with your point of view.

Stage your field of vision by keeping your goals in front of you visually. Challenge assumptions by visiting them on a regular basis to see whether they’re still valid.

Question the right answer. In fact, stop looking for it in the first place. As a leader, your job isn’t to find the right answer. It’s to identify many possible alternatives and choose the one (or more than one) that best supports reaching the desired destination.

The next time a good idea comes calling, instead of slamming the door on it, invite it in for some conversation. Consider what could be instead of what already is or what won’t. You may be surprised at what you come up with!

Call to action: Identify three common innovation-killing phrases in your company. Then tell people they can’t use them anymore.

About The Author:
Holly Green is the CEO of THE HUMAN FACTOR, Inc. (http://www.thehumanfactor.biz) She has over 20 years of executive level and operations experience in FORTUNE 100, entrepreneurial, and management consulting organizations. Experiences include working for multinational corporations such as: AT&T, Dell Computer, Bass Hotels & Resorts, Expedia, RealNetworks, Microsoft and Google. She was previously president of The Ken Blanchard Companies & LumMed, Inc.

Holly is a frequent keynote speaker for numerous corporate and professional associations as well as for Vistage, the world’s largest CEO membership organization. Her book, More Than A Minute: How To Be An Effective Leader & Manager In Today’s Changing World (http://www.MoreThanaMinute.com) lends voice to her corporate experience and goes beyond the theory of leading and managing by providing practical action oriented information.

She is currently on staff at Webster University where she teaches courses in the graduate program. Holly also teaches for the University of California San Diego, Rady School of Management in the executive education program.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Holly_Green http://EzineArticles.com/?Are-You-Talking-Your-Way-Out-of-Innovation?&id=7253943

Feb 132013
 

game pieces showing progressWhen I ask business leaders to identify which part of the innovation process their organizations struggle with the most, I typically get one of three answers:

1. We have a lot of ideas but most of them get judged as impossible or too hard to implement based on changing the way things currently are

2. We have a hard time deciding which idea or opportunity to pursue

3. We come up with a lot of good ideas but can’t seem to execute on them

Interestingly, these align exactly with the phases of innovation: discovery, evaluation, and execution.

In business, innovation is the act of applying knowledge to the creation of new processes, products, and services that have value for at least one of your stakeholder groups. Obviously, this requires more than just generating a slew of creative ideas. In order to produce true innovation, you have to actually do something different that has value. In other words, follow through on the good ideas. This requires a very different set of skills and resources than idea generation.

Achieving value creation from innovation requires a direct link between the proposed innovation and your strategy, plus a workforce that has the appropriate skills and abilities to discover, evaluate, and execute on the best ideas. It also requires a culture (or context) that supports innovation.

What does this look like?

Creating a powerful context to support innovation starts with constantly communicating the direct link between innovation and the organization’s picture of winning. It also requires behaviors that don’t come naturally to most organizations. These include building and encouraging diversity, using supportive language and behaviors, and encouraging risk-taking.

Innovation needs to become an integral part of the way the entire company does business rather than something a few isolated individuals work on in some remote corner of the company. Management needs to encourage the open sharing of ideas and information, and support intra-departmental collaboration. It needs to lead the way by advocating and owning innovation, and employing flexible processes and procedures. Most of all, it needs to build an environment where people are allowed to take risks and sometimes fail — which most organizations loathe to do.

The chances for successful innovation increase geometrically when you create a powerful context for innovation and then build a culture that supports it. However, by itself, a supportive culture will not necessarily guarantee innovation. If you’re not getting any traction with your innovation efforts, it may be that your organization lacks the skills and competencies to complete one or more of the following phases.

Phase I – Discovery
Phase I has two basic objectives: developing core innovation competencies and generating new and creative ideas, which often includes gathering customer insights and translating them into workable ideas.

Everyone has the ability to think creatively, but most people need some training and coaching in order to bring out those latent abilities. Key activities during this phase include providing learning sessions, workshops, collaboration fairs, ideation boot camps, and other tools that teach people how to think differently.

Innovation enablers during this phase include:

  • Encouraging and rewarding idea generation
  • Awareness of the brain’s processing and potential hurdles
  • Defining winning/excellence
  • Balancing big picture and details
  • Challenging assumptions
  • “What if?” thinking
  • Changing perspectives
  • Considering the right answer
  • Influencing others effectively

Key players during this phase: individual contributors and managers who encourage and support them.

Phase II – Evaluation
This phase separates the wheat from the chaff, as potential ideas and opportunities undergo a rigorous screening process. New ideas are discussed, tested, evaluated, and compared for their potential to add value to customers, generate new revenue streams, or accomplish a specific innovation goal. The primary objective is to identify the highest-value opportunities and determine the feasibility of turning them into reality.

Innovation enablers during this phase include:

  • Creating and supporting an idea evaluation framework
  • Taking risks
  • Balancing day-to-day versus longer term
  • Accepting ideas (remain open)
  • Looking for “and” versus “but” solutions
  • Encouraging some failure (within boundaries)
  • Thinking cross-functionally/organizationally

Key players during this phase: managers and leaders who have set clear strategic direction and guidance.

Phase III – Execution
This phase involves making sure that the high-value opportunities identified during the evaluation phase align with your organizational capabilities. Then senior management has to commit the time, money, and resources to make the innovation happen. This is followed by close tracking of the business performance of the new product or service, as well as measuring the process used to develop the innovation and looking for ways to improve it.

Innovation enablers during this phase include:

  • Continually communicating the need for innovation as a business focus/strategic mandate
  • Linking innovation to key strategies
  • Sponsoring innovation projects
  • Incorporating innovation reports into the business review processes
  • Funding innovation
  • Developing risk management strategies and approaches
  • Capturing and sharing innovation learnings
  • Learning from failures Key players during this phase: senior management/leaders.

The added benefits of innovation
When innovation becomes a way of life in your organization, you get a lot more than just new products and services.

The organizational mindset shifts to one of relentless improvement, with an increased awareness of opportunities and possibilities for products and efficiencies. There is more listening, less knee-jerk defending of old ideas, and a greater understanding of, and interest in, unmet customer needs.

As individuals begin to understand their roles in the innovation process, you get more clarity on what success looks like and how to achieve it. Standards of performance increase, along with an increased willingness and ability to hold each other accountable for meeting them.

Most important, as you begin to develop a sustainable innovation approach, the emphasis tends to shift from maintaining old successes to considering new opportunities and products – a key element in staying ahead of changing customer needs rather than always trying to catch up.

If you struggle to get new products to market, ask yourself, “Where are we getting stuck? What skills and competencies do we need to develop to move forward?” When you have all the pieces in place to successfully complete all stages, innovation becomes your way of working, not a project or initiative that goes away when the next business buzzword gains prominence

About the Author:
Holly Green has a BA in behavioral sciences and Master of Science degree in organizational development from American University in Washington, D.C. She is currently on staff at Webster University where she teaches courses in the graduate program. Holly also teaches for the University of California San Diego, Rady School of Management in the executive education program.Ms. Green is the CEO of THE HUMAN FACTOR, Inc. ( www.thehumanfactor.biz ) She has over 20 years of executive level and operations experience in FORTUNE 100, entrepreneurial, and management consulting organizations. She conducts more than 50 workshops annually for Vistage, the world’s largest CEO membership organization. She is also a frequent keynote speaker for numerous corporate and professional associations. Her book, More Than A Minute: How To Be An Effective Leader & Manager In Today’s Changing World ( www.MoreThanaMinute.com ) lends voice to her corporate experience and goes beyond the theory of leading and managing by providing practical action oriented information.!

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Jan 182012
 

a train side trackHave you ever had a meeting that didn’t work out quite as a planned? Where everyone agreed to a specific course of action and two weeks later you discover that what they’ve been working on doesn’t come close to your vision of what should happen?

When these situations arise, we usually blame poor communication. We didn’t communicate clearly. People weren’t really listening. We thought we had consensus when we really didn’t.

Faulty communications can certainly play a role, but there’s a lot more at work underneath the surface. This situation clearly illustrates how the way our brain works can undermine even our best intentions.

When we gain consensus on a decision or course of action, everyone agrees on the surface. But as soon as people leave the meeting and start making in-the-moment decisions, their underlying attitudes and assumptions get in the way. They typically don’t have the same attitudes and beliefs as you, so they make decisions that differ from the ones you would make.

As each new decision is made, this process builds until everyone ends up miles apart on the project. So you gather for the follow-up meeting and everyone wonders, “What happened?”

Fortunately, succession visioning comes riding to the rescue (cue “Lone Ranger” music).

Success visioning is based on the brain’s inability (on many levels) to distinguish between what is real and what it is told. Used by premier athletes around the globe, it relies on the brain’s ability to drive the body to action when it sees a clear endpoint or goal. There are many ways to use success visioning. In business, I recommend the following:

Start by using future, active, past tense questions to define winning or excellence. For example, “When we have achieved success in working well together, how often did we touch base? What decisions did you want us to make together versus having me inform you about? Who else is working with us and how did we keep everyone informed? What are the most important things we will have focused on first, and how will we make sure we all stayed on track?”

Note that these questions use a past tense voice, as if they have already occurred. Here’s why.

When we begin with the present tense, our brain typically fills in with all the reasons we can’t make something happen. But when we convince our brain we have already achieved success, it doesn’t know we have not. So it fills in the blanks between today and the target date with innovative solutions for achieving success. It focuses on winning rather than what is in the way.

Future, active, past tense questioning helps to paint the picture of success between the individuals involved, often uncovering expectations that would otherwise not see the light of day. Once a conversation uncovers what success looks like for a given timeframe, it becomes much easier to meet each other’s expectations and work together as a team.

Success visioning can also help to determine more effective ways of working during meetings. For example, start your meetings by asking:

  • When we have had a successful meeting, what decisions will we have made?
  • How will we have most effectively made those decisions?
  • How will we have gotten all the input we needed?
  • Whose input will have been most critical/important?
  • How will we have exposed any assumptions underlying what we decided?

For ongoing conversations, particularly around sensitive issues or areas where people have a lot of passion, make your thinking process visible. Explain your assumptions and the data that led to them. Give examples of what you propose, and explain who will be affected, how, and why. Encourage others to explore and question your assumptions and data. Reveal where you are least clear in your thinking, and stay open to different points of view.

To ensure alignment, ask others to make their thinking process visible. Explain your reasons for inquiring and ask questions like, “What leads you to conclude that? Help me understand how you got to that point. Tell me more about why you’re thinking that way.”

This process starts to uncover the underlying beliefs, assumptions and meanings others have about the topic under discussion. Only when we understand the why of someone’s belief or behavior can we make decisions that both parties understand and can adhere to.

At the strategic level, success visioning can be used in a process called ‘destination modeling’ to help organizations get clear on what winning looks like. Most companies have clearly defined financial objectives. Destination modeling involves going beyond the financial metrics and painting very clear pictures of what it will look like when you win in other areas of the business.

For example, when we have achieved our marketing goals:

  • What new products will we have brought to the market?
  • What new markets will we be serving?
  • How will we be known in those markets?
  • What new competitors will we be competing against?
  • What new team members will we have brought on board?
  • What new systems, processes and technologies will we be using to serve those markets?

Again, use future-active, past tense questions that position the goal as if you have already achieved it. Your brain, in many ways, can’t distinguish the difference between mental imagery and reality. So when you paint a picture of winning, it actively seeks out ways to make that picture happen.

Of course companies need to track financial metrics such as revenues, cash flow and margins. But these only don’t typically motivate, inspire or engage employees. Use destination modeling to paint detailed pictures of what it looks like to win in other areas of your business and you will be amazed at the alignment that occurs.

Use the power of the brain to get clear on excellence. Expose your thinking to each other. And use destination modeling to define winning in every area of your business. You’ll find that everyone in the organization is running the same race, and you’ll never again have to start a follow-up meeting by wondering, “What happened?”

About the Author:
Holly Green has a BA in behavioral sciences and Master of Science degree in organizational development from American University in Washington, D.C. She is currently on staff at Webster University where she teaches courses in the graduate program. Holly also teaches for the University of California San Diego, Rady School of Management in the executive education program.Ms. Green is the CEO of THE HUMAN FACTOR, Inc. ( www.thehumanfactor.biz ) She has over 20 years of executive level and operations experience in FORTUNE 100, entrepreneurial, and management consulting organizations. She conducts more than 50 workshops annually for Vistage, the world’s largest CEO membership organization. She is also a frequent keynote speaker for numerous corporate and professional associations. Her book, More Than A Minute: How To Be An Effective Leader & Manager In Today’s Changing World ( www.MoreThanaMinute.com ) lends voice to her corporate experience and goes beyond the theory of leading and managing by providing practical action oriented information.

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