You’ve heard it. We’ve all heard it. Countless business books and life books have touted the “10,000 hours to mastery” rule. I think Malcolm Gladwell started it all – or maybe it was a study that he popularized. The thesis is this: talent isn’t innate. Talent can be created. All you need to do is…
How can you stay calm when there is one disruptive thing happening after another? This year is shaping up to be just as disruptive, if not more disruptive, than last year. The “new normal” may be us finally realizing that life is change and that there is no such thing as a steady state. How…
There is a fantastic amount of misinformation out there on this pandemic. Much of it is designed, in my view, to throw people into a panic. In our practice, we have a playshop called “Reality Group Coaching” which was inspired by Robert Greene, from his book, The Laws of Human Nature. In this book, he…
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What are humans really like? I think we all, deep down, know the answer to that question. Yet, we still hold out hope that humans can change their nature. We feel that since we seem to be intelligent and capable of change — that we have these big brains which allow us to think and feel — and to supposedly…
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You all know that person (or persons) within your organization – the nay-sayer or the very negative person – who seems to take great glee in shooting down ideas? You know the kind of person that I’m talking about, the type of person that doesn’t just shoot down ideas, they cast a pall on everyone…
Why do people run from change, even when that change is for the better?
We always seem to fall back on the familiar, even if it causes pain. We stick with what we have, whether it works or not – even in some cases it’s worse for us. Most people fear change – they fear the future – they fear doing something different.
It’s time to retire the word. For everything.
Read an article the other day in one of my favorite magazines – the New Philosopher (yes, as an innovator, you should read broadly too – just reading HBR and innovation tomes doesn’t open your mind like philosophy and great, far future sci-fi do) where a father was urging on this son to excel at chess. To keep from hurting his feelings, he never used the word “lose”, as in “Did you win or lose?” when he came back from his matches – but the phrase “Did you win, or did you learn?” Of course, there is learning in winning as well, but who can argue that we learn more than we lose. In fact, isn’t it true that we learn more when we lose because we hate feeling pain worse than love feeling pleasure?
Either way, note that the dad specifically did not say “lose” but “learn”. In the same say, can we not constantly attribute failing startups or losing market share to a solid lesson learned? If we slam our innovation initiatives every time they fail, do you think you’ll see your people continuing to take risks?
No, you’ll never get the kind of disruptive innovation that you need, you’ll get the same incremental stuff that might help a little – but won’t lead you to those unicorns you love so much.
We need to recast the concept of failure, eliminate the word as much as we can. Didn’t Thomas Edison say that he never failed, just came up with hundreds of ways that didn’t work? We need to look at risk-taking anew and realize that without risk of “finding ways things don’t work” then we rarely get to the way that does work.
If startups and projects don’t gain traction, they pivot or shut down. The lessons learned from these moves into the founders next startup or the project teams next project or company. Instead of saying “a string of failed startups” you should be thinking “a string of educational experiences”
We had a very long string of inventions, from the Renaissance to the jet engine, truly disruptive concepts which dented the human universe and changed humanity for the better. Even those concepts which were tried and didn’t fly taught us what not to do or educated us that this was the wrong time and place for this concept (so many businesses start too far ahead of the world and are unable to pivot to product/market fit).
But should we slow down, should we stop trying, just because it might cost us to learn? If you ask me it costs us more when we don’t take the risk, when we are afraid to fail.
When you are afraid to fail, then you never do, and without doers, where would we be?
The Case For “Solutioning”
As an innovator, disruptor and creator of new things, I love coining and using new words which can more effectively describe something, and solutioning is one of them.
Be honest, when some people hear the word “innovation” all they think about is airy-fairy, pie-in-the-sky visions of a perfect world where everything goes right, with no connection to the world of today. Nothing could be further from the truth, but for some reason, these prejudices persist. For some, innovation is not something we are doing today, but something we may do tomorrow, and right now, we aren’t concerned with tomorrow – we just want to get through today.
Considering times are much better than they were, say, 10 years ago, this new attitude that “the sky may fall at any second so I need to keep my eye on the bottom line more than ever”, is puzzling to me. In good times, (like now) you should have the luxury to look a bit further forward down the line, but for some reason, this roaring comeback is not like the others.
But I digress.
Innovation has rarely been about the far future, innovation has mostly been about solving the problems of today in new ways. A way to look at the current challenges which your organization is facing with new eyes and a new perspective. It’s a chance to get more and more diverse minds, perspectives and viewpoints on the issue: what is your biggest challenge, and how do we solve it? How do we move forward in this challenging environment? How do we increase revenues and profitability when new, leaner and agiler competitors start to siphon off our customers and prospects? How do we tighten up our operations to increase our profit margins and massively increase employee engagement? How do we enlist all levels of our organization, or even our customer and prospects, to solve our biggest problems? This is what innovation is.
But if the term itself is a problem, that’s not a problem – let’s just call it something else.
Recently, I’ve been using a term from the past (at least some tell me that it reminds them of an outmoded term that old line IT companies used to use) which I find completely applicable, and more true to the real act of what is going on.
When we are all in a room, or in a virtual room, attempting to address this thorny issue or that, combining the brainpower of your stellar team and our unique facilitation process, we are solutioning. We are actively applying the tenets of innovation (facilitation, ideation, and problem-solving) to developing innovative solutions for your challenges of today, not tomorrow.
When you bring in fresh minds of all kinds into the process, the results are massively effective. So should we dispose of the term “innovation” – it’s served us well all of these years, and talk about the results of the work – effective and real solutions to your day-to-day tactical challenges?
Should we call what we are doing what it actually is: solutioning?
It’s Time To “Make Rejection Great Again”
What is worse? Being rejected or being ignored?
While the pain from rejection can be severe, the closure that one gets from the rejection can allow people to move on to other things. When someone pours their heart and soul into an idea which they feel is great, then they hear nothing – nothing good or bad – then the lack of communication becomes one of the worst possible things you can do.
Studies have shown that the pain caused by ignoring individuals can in some cases be more painful than physical pain. In ancient tribes and societies, being shunned or expelled from a community could be tantamount to the death penalty. As a mostly social animal, (although recently an increase in introversion may have changed this somewhat) we crave approval and communication with others.
This is likely embedded deeply in what author Charles Duhigg calls our “dinosaur brain” the oldest part of our brain (which also happens to be where our habits are stored), as ostracism has always been a highly effective punishment – familiar to almost every high school student – you are either a somebody people pay attention to or a nobody. (Actually, if you think about it, social media has turned life itself into high school. We are all just craving likes from millions of strangers instead of our own classmates).
We all know the pain of rejection, and the pain of indifference, and we all know that the latter is worse. Why then do we ignore inventors who have submitted ideas into our innovation programs, simply because we don’t like giving them the bad news that their idea may not be the right fit right now? Or that it doesn’t solve an immediate issue. Or that the idea is untenable.
We would rather sit on the idea and not provide a response on a timely basis. What is worse: giving bad news right away, so that the inventor can take the hit, possibly feel pain for a short while, then recover?
Your typical inventor is highly inventive, it won’t be long before they come up with another, possibly even better idea. Should we wait until the inventor feels that their idea has dropped into a black hole and will never get reviewed or looked at? They ask themselves, why should I give my company any of my ideas at all, if they won’t be doing anything with them?
If they are entrepreneurial at all (and most people are nowadays) then what is to stop them from keeping their ideas to themselves and eventually leaving to found their own, competing startup? If we all know that being ignored is worse than being rejected, then why do we procrastinate in our communications, effectively ignoring others?
While I’m talking specifically about inventors and innovation programs, I think we would all be better served as humans to avoid ignoring people in general. If you think about it – no matter who is communicating with you – whether it’s a salesperson, or a customer, or a colleague, we should understand that being ignored is worse for them than being rejected.
Don’t be so afraid to reject. Speak up when you want an annoying salesperson to stop emailing you, or unsubscribe from their list, address an annoying customer, and answer that colleague in a reasonable amount of time, or at least let them know when you might be able to respond.
Some people have said that they are seeing a decline in manners due to the prevalence of audio-based virtual assistants in our homes, who simply perform tasks without a “please” or a “thank you” – some parents are seeing an alarming decline in manners and are suggesting that these assistants should have a sleep phrase of “thank you” in order to bring some manners back into the conversation.
I’d suggest that we should also bring back rejection. Instead of ghosting people, no matter the reason, have the decency to turn to them and say “no”. It’s better for you, your inventors, your company, our society, and the world.
As Elie Wiesel wrote: “The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference”. Let’s all work together to eliminate indifference.
The New Should Be Better Than The Old
There have been studies which indicate that there is a major difference between young minds and older minds – apparently, we are born curious, with wide open minds. We are genetically and chemically designed to be open to new experiences from the moment we are born, and as we get older, and as we get more experienced, we close ourselves off to new ideas and new experiences.
As humans, we are deep learners at our core, designed from the ground up to be able to observe, ingest and analyze our surroundings from day one. We may be physically weak little things which require physical protection (our newborn even biologically resemble their fathers at birth, so that they may recognize them as their kin, even if they look more of a blend later), but as babies and children, we are designed to seek out the new and different, and learn.
If you think about it, our ability to reason, observe and think is really the thing that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. So, if we are born learning, inquisitive sponges, why do we seem to lose (or simply suppress that capability) in later life?
As we get older, we tend to compare our previous experiences with our current experiences – almost like a bubble sort – where we take this current new experience, compare it to all previous experiences, and then slot it into our sorted list of experiences.
We don’t automatically give the new experience any more weight simply because it’s new because we have this constantly increasing the set of past experiences to compare it against. This is one of the reasons that we dismiss previously tried failed ideas as ones that should never be tried again, simply because they failed in that specific time and place.
However, just because they failed in that place in the past, do not mean that they will fail in the here and now. To remain innovative, disruptive and forward thinking, we must look at all new ideas which we encounter with the same kind of weight we did as children – the open-minded practice or be weighing the new as more important than the old.
As our brains actively chemically cease automatically processing “the new” as more important simply because it’s new, we must rewire our own brains to do that ourselves.
Therefore, to be and stay innovative, as we grow older, we must consciously both regard anything “new” to us as having more weight that we would normally have, and secondly, be open to the fact that while a previously tried idea may have failed at a specific time and place, there is no reason that it will fail again now.
I’m personally the object of something like that – one of my earlier startups, AdviceTrader, was too early, providing a similar service to Quora from 2000-2005. Had we started it later, or where able to raise funding, who knows where we would be. In short, we need to actively look at the new, no matter what we think of it, as more important than our collected experience to date, to remain innovative.
One of the hallmarks of ageism is that younger people accuse older ones of not being open to new ideas – we need to change that perception. So, when something new – or something that’s failed before – comes across your desk – try to look at it through a different lens.
Try to be a child again.