How can you both avoid being limited by the “it’s never worked before” attitude of having been in a market for many years and at the same time benefit from the experience of knowing that market?
The idea is to always keep a fresh mindset, able to create groundbreaking new ideas that not only keep up with but beat the constant change and evolution around you, regardless of the years of experience you have in a market.
There are many examples of companies who enter a market for the first time and take the market by storm: Zoom in video conferencing, Facebook in online interaction, Kickstarter’s crowdfunding in finance, Heura Foods non meat products in the food sector etc. Outsiders with a clean slate, a fresh mindset, bringing with them daring and disruptive new ideas that most companies had not seen, despite or because of the fact that they had been in that market for a long time.
You get used to seeing what is possible, limited by what you know (or think you know) is not possible. This is a limiting factor, specially when things evolve so fast around you.
Your fresh (un influenced from past experience) views might have you look at a market and see an opportunity or innovation that no one had seen before which could make you a groundbreaking success. At the same time there is value in the experience of people who “know the sector”.
The ideal innovation balance?
Create in your organizations an open minded mindset that a newcomer has. Also bring in outsiders, people who have never been in that sector before who might ask really basic questions, the ones that disrupt your thinking, have you rethink old ways of doing things and open new opportunities.
At the same time also bring in and be informed by, but not influenced by conversations with people who have those “many years” of experience in the sector, that are familiar with the key players, the key shortcuts. But I repeat never be influenced by their thinking, only informed by it.
The authors of “The curious advantage” write in the intro to their book “the real secret to business success is not forcing new ideas to come forward. It’s listening and sensing why things are the way they are …
from there new solutions become clear and unique in form.
Curiosity is what makes this happen.”
With all the possibilities around us, confident people will quickly attract and progress. So confidence (NOT certainty) is definitely an important asset to develop.
People who awaken + use curiosity are less fearful and create less fear.
They are asking questions that do not pose threats to them or to others.
Questions like “what would happen if?” “I wonder why did that happen?” “What will happen next and what is happening? 😁” .
Increasing this curiosity mindset lowers our anxiety and stress because we are not pushing for decisions, we are curious to see what happens, why things happen, what is out there.
This reduction in anxiety then opens new possibilities because we are not acting in fear but with fresh exploring eyes of what might be.
Curiosity then increases our confidence to open our mind, it adds new layers of information, it creates more confident thinking and being.
This will also be visible to others. They will find you more attractive, interesting to be with. You will be invited to more of the important events and decision-making meetings because you are asking good curious questions.
So what are you waiting for? Take steps to unlock your and your team’s curiosity !
Inspired by the end of this episode of Erik Kruger’s The Expansive podcast I was reflecting on how our mind’s laziness can limit us and our organizations.
We – unconsciously – use habits and mental models to repeat patterns, to save energy from making the effort of trying new things.
Specially when things are going well, we repeat ways of doing things that worked but that keep us reaching better and much needed new outputs.
Being conscious of this pattern is the first step.
The second step is to create new inputs to allow new (better) outputs to arise.
Easy ways to achieve this is to have agenda-less conversations with new insightful people.
To enter spaces where a lot of questions are asked.
To physically be in new places.
To force ourselves to add (at the very least) one new slide and concept every time we present that hugely successful presentation.
… In general creating a new habit:
the habit of always – enjoying – (and not stressing out about) actively looking for new inputs,
to switch on the curious mode,
to be open to what will allow you to create better outputs.
The balance between keeping the focus on what is most important whilst having that curious mind mode ON, is that magic sweet spot where the best new outputs will allow you to successfully innovate.
These are the three broad types of questions I get asked most frequently by innovators and that you might wish to dedicate time to researching:
- TRENDS – What is happening? What new trends are emerging? What could the next big thing be?
- PROCESSES – How can I make the most of that trend? How can I implement it? How can I make the transition that is needed?
- ATTITUDE – What is the best attitude to manage the uncertainty, opportunities, new interactive structures?
Specially as “there is no time” it is vital to create the time (a weekly moment? the Monday meeting? …) when you stop to research all three areas.
Interestingly it is the third area (attitude) that is most important to either success or failure of innovation. It is also one of the least addressed.
Understanding how to substitute fear, stress, anxiety, uncertainty … in your team, with curiosity, open exploration, trust in each other, positive feedback, developing adaptability … just some of the fundamental traits that CAN be added / developed in the people of your team and in yourself.
Without these, your best processes and innovation will never work at its full potential.
A recent survey of +10,000 18 to 35 year olds showed that leading is not their priority. Whilst older generations always aimed to reach the top of the ladder, become the boss, younger generations have other priorities.
So how can you understand and manage and allow your entire team to thrive knowing this?
First of all why don’t younger generations aim to become the leaders of their team?
Four elements stand out:
– They lack the psychological safety to take risks or make mistakes
– Too much to worry about taking on leadership responsibilities
– Leadership brings higher levels of stress
– Need to give up too much to take on a leadership role
So you can decide to address head-on all four of these points (and many more that you can only find out once you build a strong, listening, open relationship with all members of your team)
You can shift to a more collaborative, co-creation, diffused leadership mode.
Where responsibility and worries about making mistakes is shared with a wider (united and supportive) team and there will be more likelihood for many to stand up and take ownership, without having to lead the entire pack forward. Instead co-creating the project and moving it forward to its highest level of innovation and success.
Always remember that leading takes energy, whilst well structured co-creation mode gives energy.
This article by Jason Wingard “The Great Resignation: Why Gen Z Is Leaving The Workforce In Droves…And What To Do About It” sparked in my three more ideas on how you can both motivate AND retain (*) the most innovative and interesting younger talent to your organization:
1. SPEED OF PROGRESS
reducing bureaucracy, decision levels, to get that (almost) instant satisfaction that these generations are so used to with. Long testing processes from idea to action are a sure way to lose interest, engagement and talent.
2. WILLINGNESS TO WORK IN BETA MODE
experimenting, trying things out, being comfortable with beta mode is what creates the agility and ability to try, pivot, progress and continuously move forward to get to the best solution. Ideal for any company, essential for younger generations.
being an influencer, is something that many younger people aspire to, it is achieved by many of their peers, they want it too. They want to be protagonist, of meaningful impact, they want to make change happen and be seen to make it happen. Again the (almost) instant reward is something they are accustomed to.
So definitely not an easy bunch to please and motivate, but an essential one too.
(*) because you really don’t want to retain at all costs an unmotivated and unproductive person.
The future is most uncertain yet I need to prepare my organization and myself for that unknown future.
So where do I put my priority?
Risk Management or Future Proofing?
Whilst the two concept are very similar they highlight one of two attitudes:
Risk Management = I want to limit my risks
Future Proofing = I want to prepare for the future
Whilst the first one is usually most prevalent in more traditional companies who, fearful of their vulnerability go for the human instinct of creating some kind of certainty by “locking down the hatches”. Making sure there are no holes or gaps in the vessel that needs to navigate a future we don’t know. Limiting potential threats.
The frequent question asked in these kinds of cultures is “where can the next crisis come from?”.
Future Proofing has a stronger emphasis on the future (rather than on maintaining the past status) and on actively preparing for what (might) come next.
It is more open to explore, more creative yet has the same level of preparedness requirements.
The frequent question asked in these kinds of cultures is a more open “what might happen next and how can I be prepared?”.
So there is a clear emphasis on fear of losing and limiting in the first instance and wanting to prepare to win in the second.
Which of these two cultures are you driving for yourself and for your team? Which of them is most useful to be the most successful possible tomorrow (and the day after) ?
Your team loves to be driven with innovation but also knowing what is happening around them, specially if relevant to their work or role.
Transparency is a great asset to create trust but also to reduce agitation, reducing the uncertainty of the “is something going on that I don’t know about?” kind of questions that arise in increasingly decentralised teams and ways of working.
Two key elements to make the most of transparency:
- Total transparency is easy but might not be the best solution.
If what you share creates more questions and doubts and uncertainty than answers, perhaps the time to share it is not now?
- Make it normal to share – create regular connection points.
If you are sharing something out of the blue, at an unexpected time, this can be come as a surprise with destabilising effects. Just like when you see lighting in the sky at night, it grabs all of your attention. In your team a surprise one-off announcement can similarly attract a lot of attention (of the wrong attention) and have people forget everything else that is important around them.
Instead create a rhythm that is normal and expected and that creates stability.
It can be a weekly all hands meeting. Or the Friday roundup. Or the Wednesday town hall Q&A.
Do make sure you create moments when your people know they can all interact with you (and with each other) to get a good vision of what is happening.
Ok that’s a pretty obvious fact, but then why do so many innovators create solutions without really understanding and involving the people whose problems they aim to address?
I have seen this so many times: a really cool group of people come together in an amazing ideation, design thinking process, come up with an outstanding solution they are really passionate about, make it happen and then … are perplexed at why no one “buys” it.
If we agree that in essence, the company is and has always been the way to solve other people’s problems (the 1st good news is that people will always have problems and therefore companies and jobs will always exist) and then we first need to be with those people we wish to serve. We have to really understand them, understand what causes those problems they are having, what are the consequences of those problems for those people, what is their perception of the problem (often very different from the reality of what the problems actually is) and – only then – can we think of the idea solutions that will be “bought” most eagerly.
That is the only innovation that will actually work, be useful, and be successful … and make your team proud for having address the problem (or desire) that pained people so much.
Some might remember that feedback box filled (hopefully) with pieces of paper where your team or your customers could post anonymous suggestions / feedback to make anything better.
Why don’t you create a business or App to avoid the very ineffective writing on paper, then reading all inputs, then trying to make sense of them, cluster them etc?
Imagine an AI algorithm that scans your team’s Slack or even just a specific #feedback channel. Then clustered ideas / suggestions, found the most frequent or most “liked” and then created “why don’t we …” suggestions?
Add to this the opportunity to have your entire army of stakeholders bet on which new product / service is most likely to succeed? You will find that they are right in their prediction more often than the “management team” who had the idea to put to market that product / service. Why? Because there is much more cumulative knowledge of the reality of what surrounds the company in people more close to the action than there is in the few people “at the top”.
These are the kinds of AI solutions that many of the most advanced companies are already implementing.
So what is YOUR way of collecting feedback, predictions to remain agile and relevant and the best possible version of your organization?