July 6, 2018
Recently I met with a lovely individual who is tasked with leading innovation in a crown (state-owned enterprise) corporation. They told me their challenge is “getting people to think outside the box.” Okay skeptics, suspend your disbelief for a minute: while it’s true that there are special challenges within government and near-government organizations, there are good examples of some managing to innovate and radically improve they way they serve the public. I had the pleasure to briefly work with the City of Austin on one such project. And when you think about it, the challenge this product manager was facing: getting people in a very process driven, very top-down kind of place to be creative is a very common situation, even inside more corporate environments. That's because to be efficient, predictable, to be able to manage, we need to create processes for people to follow. The organization is large, they need to make sure that they deliver great service and are stable so of course they create processes, rules, service level agreements, they have A LOT of structure. But in that structure and in their processes we’re seeing some of the down side showing up too much. Politics have become a very big concern inside the organization, there are power struggles between different groups. That has resulted in trust breaking down. They are also in a period of stagnating growth - thus the interest in innovation and getting teams to think outside the box - and this is further generating more negative turbulence like reactive decision making, lack of alignment or real leadership on innovation, shutting down new ideas even before they have had a chance. They are in a cycle of negative turbulence. We’ve all been there. The big question is how do they (and you) get out of it? One of the things I noticed in speaking to both my contact as well as others they introduced me to, was that each and every one of them worked hard on fostering positive relationships with me and I’d heard the same from other external consultants. I also noticed that within groups they were very supportive of each other. Finally I saw that they were very open to talking to similar organizations about how they were innovating. All of these things are elements of positive turbulence. I pointed this out to this person and they were very surprised to hear there was anything positive at all. And there it is: Often the amplitude of the negative turbulence is so great that it overwhelms the good things that you’re doing to generate positive turbulence. To generate more positive turbulence, there are 5 key areas that you can pay attention to: Pay attention to the periphery by more actively listening to speakers outside of their direct field of interest Develop non-linear thinking by using methodologies like design thinking Foster cognitive diversity by supporting interdisciplinary training Support the team by developing a culture where experimentation is acceptable Develop an innovation strategy by aligning senior leadership on the intention and direction of innovation in your organization By starting to mindfully implement positive turbulence strategies in your organization you will find that this will have a calming effect on the politics and power struggle, the team will start to feel empowered and will quite naturally free their creative sparks. This in turn will free up senior leadership to think about strategy rather than fighting the internal fires. I’m not claiming that it will all happen magically because one person started to mindfully implement positive turbulence. I am saying that change has to start somewhere. And that by being mindful about generating positive turbulence, you can start to bring that change into your organization. I’ll be talking about how to generate positive turbulence at my upcoming workshop on May 17th. (Interactive Innovation Workshop for Product Managers - Again thank you to Product Bc for their support here) Can’t make the workshop but still want to bring this into your organization? Contact me at Catalyst@analyticdesigngroup.com, I’ll happily customize the workshop and come to you and your team. Thinking you prefer to read about Positive Turbulence? Check out PositiveTurbulence.com or for a quicker read check out Robert Brodnick’s blog where you can find his and Stan Gryskiewicz’s (the guy who wrote the book!) recent article on it.