The TV series M.A.S.H. was not just a funny comedy; it also depicted advancements in field medicine including the practice of triage. As the helicopters and trucks arrived with the wounded, the doctors and nurses would check each patient and determine whose injury needed to be attended to first. Recent mass casualty events remind me of this process and the value of astute professional medical judgment.Read More
Leaders say they want to boost creativity, critical thinking and agility to improve performance and manage change. Research studies confirm the accuracy of those statements. Who wouldn’t want their staff to be quick on their feet, display ingenuity, offer critical insights, or make effective strategic choices? However, there is no consensus on how to boost agile thinking or increase brain capacity beyond the standard 10% utilization. Read More
We all recognize that better decisions follow reliable data collection. However, obtaining it remains a challenge. Too often we accept a penetrating glimpse of the obvious or past practice since it is safe and efficient to keep doing what we have always done. Unfortunately, this tendency keeps us in an echo chamber where old assumptions reside and reverberate.Read More
The movie Hidden Figures has justifiably won acclaim not only for the story and acting. Octavia Spencer’s portrayal of Dorothy Vaughan also depicted the need to keep her skills up to date. She realized her job as a mathematician was likely in jeopardy when NASA installed an early IBM computer. She saw the handwriting on the wall and prepared for her and her staff’s future by learning FORTRAN. When programmers were needed, she and her staff transitioned seamlessly into new higher paying positions.Read More
Perception: Disconnects, Distortions and Deficiencies
We often hear that seeing is believing, but should we always believe what we see? Our distorted perceptions can be superficial and unduly influenced by past experiences. Architects, IT professionals and security personnel can “see” the same office, but what registers and remains with them varies significantly. Read More
My neighbor’s dogs explore their backyard but within constrained boundaries. An invisible fence limits them. If they stray beyond the specified area their collar provides either an electrical stimulus or a vibration to restrain them. It only takes a few of these shocking experiences before the dog recognizes how to remain secure. Likewise, leaders or their staffs might restrict themselves to safe areas in their thinking, proposals or initiatives.
Traditional boundaries, existing practices, and known solutions can limit thinking. Certainly adhering to the tried and true protects leaders from unknown external or internal risks, yet this confinement is dangerous when all the rules and expectations are changing.
Leaders can also limit their staff’s thinking. In some environments, innovative thinking becomes a career limiting activity. Keeping your head down, agreeing with the prevailing opinions and, most of all, not rocking the boat, translate too often into unwarranted praise, unearned promotions and a delay in the inevitable.
Executives who truly want innovative and strategic thinking insist on broad analysis, pattern detection, and exploring opportunities. They do this by:
- Discussing their thinking process with others using six mindset buckets to avoid blind spots.
- Avoiding any hint of “scapegoating” by insisting on learning from missteps rather than placing blame.
- Using staff meetings to challenge everyone to address persistent cross-unit issues.
- Specifying that promotions will be given to individuals that demonstrate critical thinking.
- Evaluating current practices by asking what should be done more often or less often as well as what should we start and stop doing.
- Stressing the importance of asking questions including a risk analysis before decisions are finalized
- Appointing a rotating devil’s advocates to ensure that all perspectives have been carefully explored.
- Respecting and recognizing those who are innovative or who encourage innovation in others.
- Encouraging cross-functional and lateral networks.
- Supporting pilot projects and experimentation.
- Allocating time for innovation.
Simply wishing for an innovative culture, or announcing that innovation is a strategic imperative will not change behavior or practices. Consistent actions aligned with support are essential to encourage out-of-the-box thinking. What actions are you taking to encourage strategic and creative thinking? What observable or hidden limits influence your thinking?
Originally published at: http://bizcatalyst360.com/invisible-fences-limiting-constraints/#sthash.wAwP5KXq.dpuf
Lesson from Six Blind Men
Many of us have heard the story about six blind men who were asked to describe an elephant. After one man touching the tail describes a rope, the man touching the trunk disagreed and said it was like a snake. The man touching the ear explained they were both wrong since it was a fan and the man touching the side announced it was like a solid wall. Disagreement mounted as the man touching the tusk compared the elephant to a spear while the man touching a leg insisted it was a pillar. An argument ensued. In some versions, the men stop talking to each other; while in others, they start listening to each other and recognized their perceptions were incomplete. Personal experience had led them astray. We can learn a valuable lesson from this story about six blind men.
The following lines are attributed to the Buddha:
For, quarreling, each to his view they cling.
Such folk see only one side of a thing.
The ending to some versions comes when a sighted man comes by and sees the whole elephant. Recognizing how each held a partial truth while ignorant of the larger picture is a lesson that today’s leaders need to contemplate. One point of view cannot capture reality and being blinded by a firm but incomplete conclusion distorts thinking and planning.
The next question that arises is how does a leader grasp the full reality? We frequently rely on teams in the hope that they possess a diversity of experience. However, this fails to be true. Groups are not always diverse and peer pressure can squelch new perspectives. To ensure a complete and accurate grasp of current reality, questions from six mindsets need to be asked and data collected before jumping to a conclusion, decision or action.
- How can we take our existing products/services to a new level?
- How can we leverage technology?
- What will keep us unique?
- What is the competition doing?
- What will grow our share of the market?
- Are we learning from and retaining our key customers?
- What will ensure smooth execution?
- What will improve our monitoring effectiveness?
- What will improve teamwork?
- What is the cost/benefit analysis?
- How can we reduce costs or improve cycle time?
- How can we boost quality and safety?
- Do we have the skills/staff we need?
- Are rewards/recognition aligned and used effectively?
- Are we developing our talent/bench strength to match our strategy?
- What emerging customer trends need to be addressed?
- Are our assumptions valid?
- How can alliances or partnerships help us?
Getting things right isn’t a matter of IQ, style or charisma. When faced with complexity, ambiguity and change, we must explore the total picture or we will end up arguing from our limited perspective, wasting time, energy and opportunity.
Stick to your knitting guidance offers many benefits, but also snares many into stagnate thinking. Developing a strong core is vital to both your in business and personal health. However, strict adherence to a core-only mentality often leads to narrow thinking, which can result in undue reinforcement of existing patterns, squelching innovation and avoiding diversification.Read More