Inspiring or Dousing Innovation?
By Holly G.
Seeing as how summer is supposed to include some rest and
relaxation, I took advantage of a rare day off last week and went to
Sea World (one of the many perks of living in San Diego). I
especially enjoyed the Shamu “House of Douse” show, in which several
large killer whales do their best to soak everyone in the audience
by deliberately splashing with their tails and by leaping high into
the air and creating walls of flying water as they come crashing
Many people (like me) scurry for the high seats in order to
avoid getting soaked. Others, especially the youngsters,
purposefully sit as close to the large tank as possible in order to
get thoroughly drenched by the end of the show. Either way, a great
time is had by all, including the orcas, who seem to relish the
opportunity to douse visitors to their aquatic home.
Driving home (slightly wet rather than doused) it occurred to
me that “douse” is a word you don’t hear too often. To most, it
means to drench with a liquid, typically water. But douse can also
mean “to put out, quench, smother, snuff, or extinguish.”
I then thought about (since I am constantly thinking about
innovation) all the different things we do in organizations that
have the effect of quenching, smothering, or even outright
extinguishing innovation. These common, but usually unintended,
innovation “dousers” include:
Relying on a single idea or plan to see your project through.
Anxiety tends to limit the possibilities your mind ponders
and focuses the mind too much on what will go wrong.
The harder you work at being frustrated the better you’ll get
at it and the more you will find to be frustrated with.
challenge so important that you allow it to take on proportions
well beyond what is reasonable.
through a committee.
Nothing destroys individual initiative like a
well-intentioned committee. Having too many meetings to “discuss
things” can waste time and usually doubles the cost.
Make them too
short and the task becomes impossible. Too long, and you lose
interest in the project.
When you stop having fun the task becomes burdensome.
When you become
convinced that you have all the answers, you stop entertaining
alternatives, which is a keystone to successful innovation.
What inspires (rather than douses) innovation? Try these:
Nothing sharpens the attention better than demands that
really make a difference to your success.
Having a great time helps the juices flow.
Jumping right into a situation with both feet can help
you overcome initial barriers or fears stopping you from
addressing an opportunity.
Doing it fast
as you can often stops you from too much judgment or thought on
why it won’t work.
Shooting from the hip.
without a plan and applying ideas as they come to you can keep
you constantly exploring versus getting locked in to one right
Taking pleasure in success and accomplishment is a
strong driver to leverage.
The rush of the (appropriate) deadline gets you going
and making progress.
standing out in the crowd, and getting noticed can be just the
right thing to help you do it differently.
Trust in last-minute inspiration.
Having faith in your ability to pull the project
together opens your mind to more possibilities on how you will
do it versus what will stop you.
Loosening up the grip of life’s worries gives your brain
the space it needs to wander.
Having a private time and space to contemplate your
navel gives you time to ponder and explore ideas.
Most of all, take a risk! Not just a toe in the water, a no
big deal if doesn’t work out kind of risk. Take a real risk,
without a safety net. Feel the crisp bite of fear and go ahead with
it anyway. The threat of failure lights a fire like no other. And
the thrill of success is that much sweeter when you pull it off.
What are you doing to inspire (rather than douse) innovation
in your company?
Read other articles and learn more about
Holly G. Green.
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