None of us wants to believe that we are the roadblocks to innovation and change, yet there are so many times when I hear leaders shoot down opportunities for growth and innovation with one simple sentence. Take your pick of these most common squelchers, including:
- It won’t work!
- We tried that once back in…
- They won’t approve. (The we/they thing is always a clue to filter.)
- That will never fly here!
- You don’t understand. We’re different. (Healthcare suffers from terminal uniqueness, including one doctor’s patients being sicker than all others, one hospital having unique issues with running 24/7, and—my personal favorite—only angry patients fill out satisfaction surveys.)
True confession: I’ve been guilty myself of saying one or more of these things, and it takes conscious effort to be encouraging when my past experiences want to creep into my thoughts, placing immediate barriers to new ideas. I, like other leaders, have often “been there, done that.” And yet, timing is everything isn’t it?
I remember years ago, one of my mentors asked me, “Do you want to be part of the problem or part of the solution?” Of course I want (now, just as then) to be part of the solution. So, in order for me to remain the encourager-of-innovation-style leader, I need to catch my internal monologue before my mouth gets involved.
A few phrases that I’ve taught myself to use when these innovation blockers creep into my psyche include:
- Let’s give it a shot!
- It’s a new day here, and the time could be right this time. Although we tried something similar in the past, maybe we can learn from the past and figure out what caused it to fizzle.
- How can I help you plan for success?
Any of these responses to an idea can promote engagement and enthusiasm. The first step is deciding to be open to new ideas. It’s a choice. Be dynamic or be a dinosaur. If your heart and mind say dynamic, just make sure your mouth isn’t speaking brontosaurus.