We hear a lot today about the importance of innovation in our enterprises. We’re called to distinguish ourselves from the background noise of the status quo. Once the majority catch on to the current trend and begin to replicate it, change is required once again. This is the process of evolution at work in the world of business.
In the forward to the book, Leading Innovation, by Brian McDermott and Gerry Sexton, Leonard Schlesinger says that “To meet the critical challenges of innovation, today’s leaders must improve the structures and processes of human interaction. Some of these structures and processes are human-oriented and well supported by the facilitative leadership skills we explore each week. Others are technological and are becoming increasingly relevant in our technology-driven workplace. Managers are eager to adopt the next gadget or app that will give them an edge, often conducting their business on the 3×3 inch screens of their smartphones. Even old standards like payroll services are being exchanged for mobile applications.
Here are some of the perspectives McDermott and Sexton recommend for leaders seeking to foster innovation in their organizations. As facilitators, we’ll recognize these things that we do everyday in our groups.
What Role Does Facilitation play in Innovative Leadership?
The following tips from “Leading Innovation” validate the fact that facilitative practices foster a climate of innovation in organizations.
Rather than trying to change people, help them become more of who they already are. Faced with the pressures to control the course of an organization, leaders are often tempted to control their people’s actions too much. McDermott and Sexton say that Gallup research shows that “…leaders who excel at getting great performance from the people they lead don’t try to re-wire people or try to put in what was left out. Instead, they try to draw out the gifts and energy already there, just waiting to be tapped.” This speaks to the “Appreciative Inquiry” approach of exploring and building on what works–a solution/strength focus versus a problem/weakness focus.
Constantly define and communicate the desired outcome and free people to figure out how to get there. This is one of the key roles we play as facilitators. We help our groups define their desired outcome, remind them when they’re off course, and design environments to help them get the results they’re after.
Cultivate and maintain relationships with your people. McDermott and Sexton say that the relationships leaders have with their people is a critical factor needed to build a workplace where people excel. With regard to attrition they say that “People don’t leave companies–they leave managers.” They go on to say that “In nearly every employee satisfaction survey we have ever seen, challenging and meaningful work are consistently critical factors in ensuring people feel positive about the work they do. Challenging and meaningful become clearer and stronger the more you involve people in decisions that affect their work.” A clear vote for Participatory Decision-Making.
There is no answer. There never was an answer. There never will be an answer. That’s the answer.
Quit looking for THE answer. McDermott and Sexton include the quote above in the context that there just aren’t any single simple answers to life’s complex questions. As facilitators we know that there are many ways to view all situations, problems, and solutions which all depend upon the context and perspectives within which we explore them. This is why keeping our sites on our desired outcome is so important, and the very stuff that makes constant innovation possible. Holding the vision we seek to fulfill molds our actions, sometimes even our circumstances. And infinite answers we can derive from a single question provides the stuff of future innovations.
Facilitative practices pave the way for innovation. Knowing this, feel confident that your facilitative skill set is an asset to any organization seeking to become more innovative.
What are your thoughts and experience on the subjectd of innovation. Please share your questions, insights and experience on this subject in the comments section below.