Want Innovation? Be an Idea Encourager vs. Discourager!
We've all run into them — leaders who say that they really want to hear others' ideas, and that they really want others to challenge their thinking, but when either scenario occurs, the leaders respond in a manner that is anything but encouraging. Interestingly enough, the responses are typically veiled in a kind of "code" that is emotion vs. fact-based. For Example:
- I hear what you're saying, but:
- I'm feeling this way...
- I have to think about it a bit more (note: they generally never circle back to you)
- I'm on the fence (note: they generally stay on the fence, e.g., non committal/indecisive)
- Let's try my way first...
- I really do want you to challenge my thinking, but I'm just not comfortable with your idea...
- My gut is telling me to do it my way...
- My credibility is on the line, so we need to do it my way...
- I'm especially passionate about this topic, we here's how I'd like to proceed...
- You just don't understand the culture or situation like I do...
- We've never done it that way before...
- I'm afraid of what others will think or say if we try your idea...
- I've been successful to this point and am planning to remain successful, therefore we need to go with my idea...
As these leaders continue to consistently shoot down others' ideas, either consciously or unconsciously, they're creating a Culture of Apathy vs. a Culture of Innovation. Why don't they see that their style is stifling ideas and ultimately killing innovation? The bottom line — they're too inward-focused (self-centered). They may be coming from a place of:
- I'm smarter than everyone else, therefore:
- If I didn't invent the idea, it can't be a great idea.
- I'm not interested in building on others' ideas.
- Others don't know the subject matter like I know the subject matter.
- I have to be smarter than everyone else. After all, I am the leader.
- I don't trust others' ideas. I only trust my own.
- If I go with someone else's idea:
- The spotlight will shine on them vs. me.
- Iwill be giving my power away.
- In order to feel good about myself, I have to:
- Be right by convincing others that their ideas are wrong.
- Win by dismissing others' ideas.
How do you become an idea encourager? As ideas are presented to you:
- DO look for opportunities to advance the "greater good" mission. DON'T get caught up in your own personal agenda.
- DO recognize that others may have better ideas than you have. DON'T conclude that you have all of the answers.
- DO actively elicit and listen to others' ideas. DON'T ask others for their ideas then summarily discount them.
- DO engage in dialogue richness that explores the possibilities. DON'T limit discussion boundaries because of your need to be right.
- DO seek out, honor and be guided by the facts. DON'T allow emotions and untested beliefs to cloud your thinking.
- DO problem solve. DON'T pursue positional winning.
- DO muster up the courage to try new ideas even if they're uncomfortable. DON'T be afraid of venturing into the unknown.
- Do create a culture that encourages idea sharing and that challenges your thinking. DON'T allow your inward-focused style to consciously or unconsciously sabotage innovation.