In the crowded technology market, senior executives are saddled with the task of leading disruptive innovation. Despite the extensive studies conducted to methodize innovation’s best practices and a growing number of innovation centers within the Silicon Valley, there is no one repeatable process that guarantees disruptive innovation. Large strategic companies have poured billions of dollars into private innovation centers and admit that they’ve fallen short of lofty expectations. So maybe innovation doesn’t spring from university pedigrees, professional training and cerebral thinking. Rather, perhaps it is more about how a team interacts and functions? The posture that seems to be winning the innovation game doesn’t come packaged in corporate cultural behaviors we all know so well. Studies point to the need for a greater deal of emphasis on being human, vulnerable and humble. To make the leap from vulnerability to innovation, let’s break it down into 3 steps.
1) Vulnerability + Risk = Trust
Human capital is messy and it distracts from bottom line objectives when there is an absence of trust. As a result, corporate fiefdoms pop up and disagreements around strategy create divisions in thinking. Conversely, open vulnerability about not having all the answers among team members ensures a culture of trust. While vulnerability requires risk and enduring the unknown of how others might react, trust is the reward for stepping out onto a limb.
2) Trust + Inspiration = Innovation
When humans truly trust each other, there are no dumb ideas. More often, in this scenario we come up with better ideas when we are operating together collectively and collaboratively. Many of the world’s greatest inventions were initially thought to be useless and quickly dismissed by some incredibly smart critics. Our team members however, push us to reconsider something that might seem like a bad idea at a first blush. John Von Neumann, for example, who was a mathematician, physicist, inventor, computer scientist, and polymath, was certain in 1949 that “We have reached the limits of what is possible with computers.” Being wrong isn’t an indictment on your intellect or ability to function in your role. Instead, it can become a posture of being ready to admit you need to lean on others and are more willing to take a leap when you're flanked by smart colleagues. Not knowing all the answers sets a team up to truly depend on each other. In the book ‘Tribal Leadership’ by Dave Logan and Halee Fischer, they describe the most highly integrated and innovative teams as being characterized by a “sense of innocent wonderment” and because of it, are able to consistently create disruptive technologies. What is most interesting is “[This level] of Tribal Company produces things that shake their industry…they say, "Let's do it because it's possible and we think it will change the world." Innovation starts with how we see and treat each other, and with that foundation, we begin to see the world and its possibilities differently.
3) Operationalizing Trust Based Innovation
Vulnerability must start with the CEO and C-Suite executives and then progress further down into the organization. Brene Brown, author of ‘Daring Greatly’ observes, “ My corporate talks almost always focus on inspired leadership or creativity and innovation…. [and] ultimately if we want to reignite innovation and passion, we have to re-humanize work.” If this is the goal, we must start with the opportunities we have for incremental change. And as we add new leaders to a team who will own the mission and vision and embrace vulnerability, the outcome is greater internal cohesion, innovation and creativity. These executives will ultimately attract teams who are willing to risk and operate in the same way. This kind of positive traction becomes the catalyst for a magnetic culture. With leadership fully behind the idea, the stakes are a higher, direct reports are infused with a greater sense of passion for their roles, and have the freedom to ask questions, fail, try again and then successfully innovate.
At MiROR Partners we align teams and find the best executives to insure you win the innovation game.