Mindsets shifts for Innovation & Influence
“I just had my quarterly performance feedback. My manager says I do well in my operational role. I keep the lights on. I am pretty efficient. She can bank on me and I don’t let her fail.
There are couple of areas she wants me to improve on - Innovation & Influence. She finds that I(including my team) have not come up with any substantial innovative application of ideas in the product we build. In the couple of cases I did bring an idea, I could not garner support.
Can you pls help me get better at these?”
Apart from career growth, the two “I”s [Innovation & Influence], as I fondly call them, dominate my coaching conversations. These goals come from people who are already successful at what they do and want to move up a notch towards strategic roles. There is a pattern in the mindset shift that emerges from such conversations that I have abstracted and highlighted here in this post.
Depth Vs Breadth
As we progress in our career, we specialise more & more in one or two areas. We can say we build “depth” of knowledge and application in those areas. This helps us in standing out and to be regarded as an “expert” in that field.
However, when we have to innovate, depth alone does not suffice. We need a little nudge to move beyond depth & to look at “breadth” which is a broader landscape of adjacent/lateral areas we have to acquire knowledge about. The depth Vs breadth tradeoff in leadership roles is often symbolised as the letter "T". Every person in the organisation needs to have depth in atleast one area and expand broadly over others.
In his book, “Where good ideas come from”, Steven Johnson coins the term “adjacent possible” to describe combination of elements to make something new. To break away from the cocoon of specialisation, we need inputs from lateral/adjacent streams. This means we need to have cross-pollination of ideas and break silos.
Self reliance Vs collaboration: Most of us have this value of being “self-reliant” and do not want to ask for support from others. Again this mindset serves us in multitude of contexts, building our self-confidence & esteem when we succeed - 'self made person' is a great badge to wear. However when we need more than “us” to get something moving, the same mindset deters ourselves from asking for help/inputs/suggestions from others. Influence is not imposing our views on others. Influence is about finding a common ground, and embellishing our ideas with inclusive inputs.
The underlying essence in both the above is to move from “I” to “We” on a broader context (not just within our teams), to move form individual values to shared values, to move from making it alone to doing along with others. The pre-supposition to living this essence is to form connections with like-minded people outside the silo we work in. This will not only gives us a chance with innovation & influence, but seeds some ever-lasting friendships with whom our success becomes worth a celebration.
What new mindset/belief will help you be more innovative & influential?