Feeling boxed-in?

Innovation doesn’t just happen. Just asking for innovation is not enough. It is not fair either!  In addition to curiosity, creativity and the skills of developing and implementing, innovation requires above all space, space to challenge and question, space to experiment and explore. According to a 2015 PwC survey, over a thousand CEOs listed curiosity and open-mindedness as two of the most important leadership traits. When Michael Dell, CEO of Dell, was asked to name the one attribute CEOs need most to succeed in the times ahead, he said, “I would place my bet on curiosity.”

To innovate is to embrace change. The energy you need does not come from anger in the resistance to change but from joy in discovering spaces to stretch yourself.

  • What is your innovation strategy?
  • What space do you create for yourself to do just this?
  • What does this space look like and feel like?
  • How confident are you that you can put your mind in the right place to innovate?
  • What stimulates your curiosity?
  • How do you anticipate what could go wrong?

The 5% inspiration you need to think outside the box is about putting your competitors and what they do in the box and leaving it on the side of the road as you journey towards different horizons. The 95% hard work you then need to do means going back to the box and opening it with extreme caution.

  • What would you do that you are not currently doing if you had more of X, for example ‘self-belief’?
  • Who do you need to be and what do you need to do to take a more courageous step towards this outcome?

Innovation is emotional. It requires doing something new or novel. That can be scary because it requires the courage to enter the unknown and it involves learning from experimental failures.

  • How do you begin to see new things that others don’t see?
  • How do you perceive reality more accurately—see what we do not usually see?

Humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow once said “a person reaches out to the environment in wonder and interest, and expresses whatever skills he has, to the extent that he is not crippled by fear, to the extent that he feels safe enough to dare.” That’s what “psychological safety” is all about.

A Google company analyst recently published a powerful example of Psychological Safety research in a 2015 Google blog post entitled, “The Five Keys to a Successful Google Team.” The key factor regarding team effectiveness by a material margin was psychological safety—whether team members felt safe taking risks and being vulnerable in front of teammates.

Innovation happens best when we reduce our fears and ego defensiveness. Our minds are free to imagine, create, connect, and explore the new and unknown with others in a non-competitive way. This happens best when people feel psychologically safe and trust each other. It is all about emotions. So what are you doing to emotionally enable more innovation in your organization?

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