Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Unblocking Potential - Part 3. Arrogance

This is the third post, and last for now, looking at ways that a business could be blocking its own potential and making suggestions for unblocking the ideas, creativity and innovation that fuels future business success.

3. Arrogance

‘Innovation is this amazing intersection between someone's imagination and the reality in which they live. The problem is, many companies don't have great imagination, but their view of reality tells them that it's impossible to do what they imagine.‘
Ron Johnson

All businesses have, or should have a business plan.  This plan represents the strategic vision of the organization and its goals over the next three or five years.  Some companies take this plan altogether too seriously and. by sticking too rigidly to plan, stifle creativity and innovation and miss opportunities for growth.  There are some tell-tale signs that the company has arrogantly assumed its plans are close to perfect and should not be strayed from at any cost:

‘We’ve tried that before.’  This is a sign that the organization is settling for what innovation it already has; that success has bred arrogance.  It is closed to new ideas, flashes of inspiration and leaps of imagination.

‘It won’t work.’  Brainstorming sessions are most easily stopped dead in their tracks by comments such as this, especially if the comment comes from senior management.  This leads to the stifling of imagination and the death of ideas before they have a chance to germinate.

‘Let’s ask a focus group.’  Focus groups are great for giving you feedback on what’s already been invented – on a fresh look at something that is already available.   They are reactive, not proactive.  Focus groups are not the place to go looking for ideas, or for how to turn ideas into innovation.  That’s your role!

‘That’s not my job.’  When staff start complaining that they have no time to pursue new opportunities, this could be because delivering the plan has become more important than growing the business.

Here’s an analogy that most should relate to.  There are two kinds of school teacher – those who plan their lessons meticulously and those who plan to be flexible.  Remember the meticulous planner that taught you at school?  If you couldn’t remember something you had learned in previous lessons that you needed to apply in today’s lesson it was your fault.  No way would this teacher slow down to accommodate those that needed time to catch up.  The curriculum had to be taught – end to end, in order and without deviation.  The flexible planner teacher listened and observed what was going on in her classroom.  She revised when revision was needed, picked up on what worked best for certain students and which others needed extra help.  The goal was learning, not meeting strict curriculum goals.  The big difference for me was that I learned what the flexible teacher wanted me to learn and can still apply what I learned today, 30+ years later.  I learned very little from the meticulous planners.  In the main, they got me through the examinations - but at the cost of learning.

In business as in teaching, a plan is a plan, not the plan.  It should not be set in stone but should be an organic, flexible, changing, frequently updated view of where the company is going.  Don’t accept arrogance.  Listen to those who have ideas, however weird or wild they might be and ignore accusations of foolishness.  Not every idea will make it through to implementation, but every idea should have a chance to be aired. Keep learning to keep growing.

‘Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.’
William Pollard

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