In the quest to unlock innovation in organizations, it may be beneficial or even mandatory to learn how to unlock the internal children in our employees.
I’m sure we can all remember as children being told “don’t” do this or you “can’t” do that, and the result growing up was to reinforce the idea that there is one “right” way to do anything. It has also led to the creation of a national psychosis of believing that many actions that would create positive change are too difficult to try.
How else would you explain the decline in electoral participation or in labor union membership? The majority of our nation believes that their ideas and their voice are too small to make things better. If it weren’t for those “crazy” entrepreneurs, our country would not continue to grow and dominate new markets.
So how could we create a whole nation of entrepreneurial thinking (or at least a whole organization)?
Well, by reducing the prevalence of “don’t” and “can’t” in our organizational vocabulary, and replacing it with “how” and “when”. Here is how it works:
Currently we might say things like:
“Don’t be silly. We can’t build a spaceship that will go faster than the speed of light.”
When if we seek to innovate, we must say:
“How could we build something to travel faster than the speed of light? We can improve upon current methods of propulsion when we achieve the following advances to build upon:”
We must also always ask:
“How could we approach this in a different way?”
This problem of believing there is only one “right” way is compounded by our organization’s inherent intolerance for risk and the accompanying preference to identify reasons not to do something or not to fund an effort. There are lots of ways to overcome this negative management reinforcement, but that is a topic for another day.
For now, we must stop treating employees like children and instead help them unlock and channel their inner child to uncover new “right” ways. Are you ready to democratize innovation?
Braden Kelley is a Social Business Architect and the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. Braden is also a popular innovation speaker and trainer, and advises companies on embedding innovation across the organization and how to attract and engage customers, partners, and employees.