Can exponential innovation arise from a step by step linear approach?

Addressing the uncertainty that surrounds your team, might be the starting point to allow a linear step by step approach ending up creating exponential innovation. Or should I say the innovation that can be most useful to make you and your organisation successful.

Uncertainty is both what we are surrounded by and what our human brain is trained to avoid as much as possible. Lack of controlnot knowing, being uncertain about the future is not a positive but a negative status that people instinctively resist.

So how do we move from uncertainty to some degree of control and a better place from which to take decisions and act towards the best possible outcomes and innovations?

In the only way you can go from the place where you are sitting or standing right now physically, to the other point you wish to go to, in the room where you are or the place where you aim to go to: taking steps to get there.

Contrary to popular belief: you cannot be teleported to that next place, you need to move, step by step to where you want to be. Whilst the mind is undoubtedly much more able to take much wider steps and strides than our body can physically take, the best way forward is step by step. The mindset, attitude in which you operate and create is that will make you and your team make those linear steps, tiny or important ones.

Each step can be shorter and more risk-management change-averse limited. Or it can be a bigger more ambitious step but still it will be a path that you are walking, together with others.

As a leader you need to create the conditions for your team (people internal or external to your organisation, whoever you are working with, it is still a team) to take the best decisions and creating the best state of mind to take those great decisions.

So what are the conditions that will allow people in your team to take the best next steps that will make them feel more comfortable and serene and able to make relaxed mindful decisions as opposed to panicked fear-driven ones? 

Do keep in mind that the concept of “what is possible” in people’s mind is based on their history, their experience and the assumptions that they built over the years of what will happen next, of how others behave, of how things around them will evolve.

With the current degree of uncertainty all those reassuring (and at least half of the time wrong) assumptions are less and less relevant, less and less useful.

So to get you and your people walking in the right direction, taking the best next steps, with an ideal and not sub-optimal mindset, you need to open the space of possibility without creating a panic mode of too many options that lead to immobility: the absolutely last thing you wish to see in your team.

Four questions you might wish to ask yourself to open the space of possibility and create the right attitude for your team:

  1. Are you creating a safe space, where making mistakes is ok and – truly – learning opportunities?
  2. Are you encouraging the free, useful, not chaotic, exchange of knowledge and of experiences (experiences are often more useful than knowledge) that will allow faster gathering of relevant information to make the steps more secure?
  3. Are you creating an excitement and a creative habit to stretch by using unusual but not uncomfortable situations for your team to experience? (An example from a previous article “Why you should take a painting to work to accelerate innovation“)
  4. Are you encouraging others in your group to make good positive, challenging questions that are able to not break down all the assumptions that block fresh new thinking but always careful not too create too much uncertainty? Questions that stretch people’s imagination and give a great taste of new possibilities?

I’d be very curious to learn from you:

What are you using to open the minds, possibilities and breaking down the limiting assumptions of your team to make the best kind of innovation happen in your organisation?

How are you creating the best attitude and way of being in your company to encourage fresh thinking, create stability and serenity at the same time?

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