One of the biggest challenges facing the contemporary organisation is business innovation.
Some organisations thrive on this challenge.
Think about the many examples of the technological, creative, consumer-durable and scientific worlds and yet so many organisations really struggle to find new ideas or approaches, and so fall behind their more creative competitors.
What many leaders fail to challenge
I have the insight to offer to any leader about the root cause of this problem:
We really don’t like things that are very different from the norm.
This is especially true if our ‘norms’ are long established. It includes ideas and approaches that are different. It is particularly a challenge for those in the UK, where being ‘normal’ is seen to be so valuable and ‘fitting in’ is considered such a positive thing. We don’t like rocking the boat.
But most of all, we don’t like people who are significantly different. The boat-rockers.
Because of this, people who think and behave in unusual ways are usually left outside. Kept at arm’s length. Avoided. Marginalised.
We call them ‘mavericks’ or ‘rebels’ and we classify them as difficult and challenging. Weirdos. Freaks. Idiots. I could go on…
This makes it really very difficult for us to be creative or innovative, when the very people who are most likely to come up with the breakthrough, the great idea, the whole new way of looking at an issue, aren’t even invited to the meeting. They aren’t consulted. Generally, they aren’t even listened to, because it makes those in the ‘mainstream’ feel uncomfortable or threatened.
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Leaders need to embrace unconventional business innovation or risk falling behind
Conversely, it’s long been understood that high-performing teams need to have one of these ‘freaks’ on the team. Tom Peters has much to say on the subject, as do many other contemporary thinkers and ‘gurus’. Perhaps they’re all mad or deluded. But suppose they’re right?
The question is, do you welcome different ideas and approaches in your organisation? Do you actively encourage people to challenge the status quo, dismantle the long-established, go against the grain?
Because I’m afraid, if you don’t – you’re either on the road to mediocrity and irrelevance….
… or you’re already there and you just don’t realise.