Pick up any journal or business magazine and you’ll likely find an article or two on the importance of innovation. But are you and your organization really fostering innovation? Maybe. Or maybe not.
None of us wants to believe that we are the roadblocks to innovation and change, and yet there are so many times when I hear leaders shoot down opportunities for growth and innovation with one simple sentence. Some of the most common include:
- It won’t work.
- We tried that once back in …
- “They” won’t approve (the “we/they thing” is always an easy target).
- That will never fly here.
- You don’t understand. We’re different.
To tell the truth, I’ve been guilty of saying one or more of these things on different occasions. Once I recognized that my initial thoughts can take me down a rabbit hole of resistance, I’ve made a conscious effort to be open and encouraging, especially when my past experiences creep into my thoughts throwing down immediate barriers to new ideas. I, like other leaders, have often “Been there. Done that.” And yet, timing is everything, isn’t it?
Years ago, one of my mentors asked, “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:
- Tell me more.
- 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 and barricade.