(5 Steps You Can Take Today to Create a Culture of Innovation)
Last week, we looked at the Physical Intelligence element of Strength. This week, we'll move on to Flexibility, starting with Innovation. A high degree of flexibility is required of us today. Flexible working hours, flexible working environments, increased demands for creativity and innovation in the workplace, working globally across time zones, languages and culture, the rate of change in technology, the amount of information we process daily, the varied responsibilities of parenting and living in diverse communities – all make demands that require us to be increasingly flexible.
The winning 'chemical cocktail’ for flexibility is created when we consciously adapt and boost our levels of the four key flexibility chemicals: Oxytocin, Dopamine, DHEA and Serotonin. When we do that we can increase the ODDS for success.
Let's look at a story from our book that describes how one person we know applied that winning chemical cocktail in the workplace to create an environment that fostered innovation...
John is a former financial services executive. Earlier in his career, he was leading a regional sales team. They needed a new strategy, and John thought he knew the best approach. People trusted each other, so with plenty of Oxytocin in the team, they felt comfortable telling John he was wrong. He was receptive, unthreatened and curious, showing high DHEA, and asked the team for ideas, releasing Dopamine. Three new ideas emerged in addition to John’s, one of which met with a lot of resistance and was considered ‘crazy’ by all but a few staunch advocates. They couldn’t reach agreement on which approach to adopt, so John took a risk and suggested they divide into four teams, with each team using one of the four proposed approaches for an entire quarter. This solution gave everyone status and restored balance, releasing Serotonin. They all agreed that the approach that generated the best results by the end of the quarter would be the winning strategy and would be adopted by the entire team. In the end, the ‘crazy’ idea was the most successful and later was implemented company-wide, significantly improving performance. Both the approach taken by John and the idea adopted are excellent examples of innovation in action.
What steps can you take with your team today to up your ODDS and drive innovation the way John did? Start with these 5 actions:
Action #1: Consult with employees at all levels in the organisation for innovative ideas. Reward, recognise and communicate about this anecdotally through effective channels. Create a culture that values good divergent and convergent thinking.
Action #2: Provide and protect opportunities for full immersion for research and development teams. Those team members can't always communicate externally to other areas of the business. Support them with a mix of environments in which they can think well. Recent research from Stanford University shows that whilst seated looking at a fixed object only 50% of people can come up with a high quality new idea, whereas whilst in the act of walking (outside or inside, or on a treadmill), 95% of people can produce a high quality new idea. Movement is vital for creative thinking. Insight is encouraged by a change in focus; therefore, varying immersion with relaxed focus elsewhere invites inspiration.
Action #3: Create cross-functional opportunities for both divergent and convergent thinking. Enable business units to share learning with each other to avoid stagnant silos, stimulate innovative thinking through different lenses, and ensure successful implementations.
Action #4: Be prepared for endurance and hard work implementing radical innovation. Incremental innovation is easier to implement and should be happening as a matter of course. That requires managers confident enough to take ownership of their roles, make difficult decisions and handle their workloads by taking charge. In addition, individual
contributors need to know how to self-manage their performance.
Action #5: Influence is vital to gaining support for innovation, communicating new proposals, working through set-backs, standing your ground and maintaining your own belief. Communicating with confidence can make or break implementation. Innovators and implementers need to understand how to influence and organisational leaders need to be centred and highly aware in order to listen for and receive unexpected recommendations.
About Companies in Motion
There are over 80 easy to use techniques and tips to build our Physical Intelligence. You can read about all of them in our new book, Physical Intelligence: Harness Your Body’s Untapped Intelligence to Achieve More, Stress Less and Live More Happily available from Simon and Schuster. (Order here.) (Multiple translations will be available later in 2019.)