In their August 20 post this past week, To Encourage Innovation, Eradicate Blame, Ken and Scott Blanchard share that
“We know that the most innovative environments are those where people are allowed to learn from past mistakes, grow, develop, and improve. That’s what evolution and innovation look like. That’s how Thomas Edison was able to learn from the thousands of times he failed due to using the wrong material for his light bulb filament. Each time, he recognized that he was one step closer to finding the right material.”
Three steps for moving forward:
- Examine your current attitude toward mistakes. As a company, what’s your typical reaction to mistakes and failures? Are they seen as an opportunity to learn or to assign blame? Look at this from an individual aspect also. How are you wired internally? Are you overly critical, or do you learn from your mistakes and move on? It’s important to learn from your mistakes and don’t live in the past. If you tend to dwell on negative thoughts about yourself, consider how this negativity might be spilling out into your perceptions of others. Negativity is a habit… and so is positivity.
- Consider your impact as a leader. What you are doing to encourage people to take risks and try something truly innovative? Are you celebrating the vigor of their pursuit even though the outcome is uncertain? Keeping new ideas alive is hard work. It always takes longer than you think it will, you run into problems, and it very rarely goes as originally planned. Recognizing the efforts of people who take risks in spite of the threat of failure.
- Find ways to engage in positive practices as a discipline. It’s so easy for things to turn negative. That’s what keeps a lid on so many organizations. As a leader, it’s important to move from fault and blame to cause and responsibility. Typically, when something goes wrong, the immediate response is find out who was at fault, punish them, and then bring in someone new to be responsible for moving the organization forward. Why not give your current people the same benefit of the doubt that you would a new person? Instead of assigning blame, look to assign responsibility for moving the organization forward given what was just learned.
Develop practices that accentuate the positive and help people feel secure in knowing the organization wants them to step forward and try new things confidently.
As leaders we have the opportunity to foster creative thinking and innovation through positive language and actions. We consciously (or subconsciously) determine, develop and deliver experiences for our organizations. Let’s make them great!