In Part One, I talked about fingers one and two: the Doers and Fiscal Alignment. In Part Two, I’ll address fingers three and four: Corporate Desire and Managed Management.
Here’s the handy visual, just to keep things straight.
This is simple to describe and tough to implement. The corporation, from the CEO on down, has to truly desire innovation. All too often, a CEO’s real commitment is nothing more than lip service. Like a cross between an infectious disease and wildfire, a CEO’s apathy for innovation will rot the process from the top down and spread to every corner of the corporation.
The corporation has to want to innovate. In an earlier post, I provided data showing that, over time, all successful companies must innovate. It’s not a choice. Given enough time, the choice really is as simple as innovate or die. The entire company needs to understand this point, starting with a fully bought-in CEO.
4th Finger: Managing Management
Most managers manage. They can’t help themselves. Managers are drawn to managing like moths to a flame. Worse, team members expect the manager to manage. It’s the role they have come to expect from a manager. And worse still, team members know that their ability to progress within the company is tied to the manager’s approval of their work. Even the most detached employee will go to some lengths to gain their boss’s approval.
But that causes a problem for the innovation process. Innovation depends on exploring ideas and ideas need room to breathe and grow. If a manager is in the room when an idea is put on the table for discussion, everything stops until she or he weighs in. The manager’s first words will immediately determine the future of the idea and its acceptance by the team. Given that the whole point of innovation is to do something new, this is a very poor start.
The problem is compounded by seniority, with CEOs being the worst influence of the lot.
The most effective solution is a rule of silence. If a manager, especially a senior manager, is present at an innovation meeting, they must remain silent. If they have to speak, it should be after everyone else has had their say. What’s more, the manager should be coached to avoid directing the proceedings at anything other than a very high level e.g. “We are here today to explore some ideas”, or “Our goal today is to find 5 workable ideas for further exploration.”
Simply put, managers must learn to shut up.
Next: the mystery thumb. Coming soon.