Innovation is a natural human impulse. It is born out of our innate curiosity to explore, play, and discover. Look at any child and you will see innovation taking place every day, new ideas percolating forth from the wellspring of creative impulses in the childmind. In the context of their inexperience in the world, children invent new solutions to problems (and new problems needing solutions!) as well as new approaches to life on a continual basis. This instinctive drive is why many experts, including those of us at SyNet, believe that innovation is a native competency in humans.
In the adult world, however, the innovator childmind often hits a barrier, especially for those working in large, complex organizational settings. Accepted procedures, rules, policies, and the need for control and standardization are disincentives to exploration, discovery, and new ideas. Organizational cultures typically stifle innovation and creative approaches that might be a threat to the stabilizing forces of that culture. Management bureaucracies and silo mentalities are not fertile ground for growing the flowers of innovation. The personal drive to innovate hits a wall of resistance from others, and the usual response is to shut creative thought down.
But this does not mean it is forever dead. The childmind is simply dormant, and only needs an invitation to wake up, and maybe some coaxing to “come out and play.” Many organizations have successfully reinvigorated innovation in their people. At SyNet, we have created a three-step “innovation alive” process that goes something like this.
First, we create the right internal and external conditions for the childmind to feel welcome and safe. Creating an environment that fosters innovation requires leadership buy-in right at the top. We recommend that the invitation to innovate be company-wide, because “authorizing” only certain teams of people to be free to innovate still reflects a bureaucratic mentality. You can’t just point to certain people and say, “You guys over there, go innovate,” versus “You guys over there, just keep following the rules.” Both options are forced set-ups, based on control and expectations.
We at SyNet suggest the next step be a sort of ‘Innovation Boot Camp,’ where people are empowered to reconnect with their innovator childmind. This is a time when we take participants through a series of unique and highly immersive, experiential activities focused on innovation leadership. While we don’t expect everyone to transform into the next Edison or another Einstein, we believe that every leader—as a key leadership practice—needs to know what it takes to successfully lead their organization into becoming a creative hothouse and to avoid presiding over a narrow-minded, risk-adverse, change-fearing company on their watch.
We also transform this period into a personal journey, where each individual builds their personal creativity ‘muscle’ and, as necessary, receives guidance to overcome the residue of having hibernated their childmind for too long. One element of this time is giving professionals an opportunity to deeply reflect, to become aware of themselves within the context of innovation. Through this work, individuals and groups get comfortable with more powerful ways to BE and to SENSE in their role as innovators and to drive and support what wants (and needs) to emerge.
As a regular outcome, at the end of the boot camp, one can literally see a transformation in people as they free themselves from the constraints of the past. They excitedly enter the space of ‘Don’t know what I don’t know,’ giving themselves permission to question everything, to destroy the rules, and to blue sky new ideas. “Creative destruction,” the term coined by Joseph Schumpeter as an economics principle based on how industrial systems constantly reinvent themselves, becomes part of the agenda. The boot camp enables people to get ready to launch missiles of creative destruction.
Third, we let people gather themselves into teams, as innovation at its core is never a solo activity. The childmind needs pals and cohorts to play with. Innovation is a discovery experience and it benefits from having a group of explorers imagining and cutting new paths together. Innovation is also an action sport; you have to experiment and do things with your mind and your body to allow the competencies of creativity and invention to flourish
SyNet provides these experiences through both online and face-to-face sessions, where we ask peers to work with each other in an experimental space that offers opportunities for involvement, encounters, and guided reflection in a disciplined process. An undertone of this teamwork is to help people better understand the creative power of team dynamics in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. Internalizing breakthrough team practices helps members identify strategies that work for them to bust through challenges with new visions and ideas.
We at SyNet are committed proponents that great potential is inborn in each of us. We encourage leaders of tomorrow to develop the capacities, qualities and attributes of those truly taking their organizations forward successfully into the (business) complexities of the 21st century. It takes courage to claim freedom to create and permission to innovate. We can show you how.