A recent Harvard Business Review article reminds us that while it’s natural to look for consensus, you’re actually better off looking for contention if you want to make the big, bold moves that fuel innovation.
Our research and experience back this up, particularly from a thinking standpoint. When people are on the same “mental wavelength,” there’s little confrontation of opposing concepts and ideas. That means no matter how much time is allocated, the team will typically come back early with a solution and say it would be counterproductive to spend any more time on it.
Early consensus can be an advantage, but not in the domain of innovation and creativity. The absence of continued interactions spells missed opportunities.
But even when there are differences on the team, there’s often a tendency to avoid conflict and contention. The result: Interaction, fresh ideas and new perspectives are squashed while the status quo is maintained.
To get past this all-too-common roadblock to innovation, give your teams an understanding of how conflict can be turned into “creative contention” and the steps and tools to make that work. (You can get the platform for such a process with the HBDI® Team Profile and our Business of Thinking® Workshops.)
Here are three other common roadblocks to innovation.
Encouraging new employees to adopt your organization’s “way of thinking” (e.g., “the XYZ company way”). This homogenizes mindsets, especially when people are new to the organization.
Get over it: Make sure your on-boarding process and orientation training discuss why different thinking is valuable to the group and the business. Then make sure you listen when ideas emerge! This doesn’t prevent you from framing up and articulating the organization’s values and principles—those don’t get re-invented every day.
Paying no attention to what is happening outside of your team or group. What’s going on outside may bring new perspective — and new solutions you may never have arrived at without that insight.
Get over it: Reach beyond your usual resources and worldview to get fresh thinking and ideas for your challenges. Cross functions, look at different businesses and ask, “How would you go about solving this problem?” Use the Whole Brain® Walk-Around to ensure you have considered all areas.
Looking at how you solved your previous challenges as the best way to solve all problems. This may seem like a shortcut and a timesaver, but it also keeps you locked in past thinking. Looking at previous solutions automatically sets your brain up for old thinking and old patterns, and that makes it harder to see new ideas.
Get over it: Force fit your situation to something totally different. Metaphors are a great way to shift your mindset. Ask yourself: How is this situation like a circus? A garden? A vehicle? Or step into the “shoes” of a character and imagine how they would look at the challenge. Have fun with it!
Narrow thinking limits your view and your options. Make sure everyone understands, pursues and appreciates the thinking diversity necessary for reaching innovative solutions.