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