What is innovation? Often times people overthink it, but in its simplest form, innovation is a process to solve a need.
Many individuals are innovators, yet they deny claiming themselves as such. These people have been led to believe innovation must be flashy and uber creative, as well as have an element of sassiness to it.
The reality is that innovation is about assessing a current process or situation, determining why it needs attention, listening to how others would approach a solution, and coming up with a solid solution. When the innovative “solution” is flashy, sassy, and clever and a need is not met, it’s called art.
Let’s move in for a closeup on innovative thinking and how it applies to leaders.
Leaders assert power through influence. Moreover, leaders who act as good social architects—those who consciously create an environment of belonging in order to foster the best outcome for individuals and the group—establish trust as the basis for successful relationships and are smart in how they deal with people. Individuals see them as being honest, offering candid coaching, and having a level of emotional intelligence that keeps feelings in check.
On the other hand, Influence Thinking begins with group members sharing a common purpose and have openly shared their goals for achieving the common goal. During the growth of mindset, individuals align core values and required or anticipated outcomes, reaching a level of consensus that establishes group collaboration and not groupthink.
Collaboration requires the mindset of the groups to agree in two ways. First, all parties must agree they need each other and that everyone at the table shares an equal voice in contributing to the end result.
When leaders seek collaboration, they are asking for the views, beliefs, and opinions of others, whether they agree with their perspectives or not. From there they can make well-informed decisions that are grounded by the voice of others.
Grounding Boards vs. Sounding Boards
A grounding board is not the same as a sounding board. A sounding board generally reflects only what is being said. This happens when individuals only tell the boss what he wants to hear. The sounding board doesn’t typically speak up or offer healthy conflict; there is no safe environment, and “collaboration” may just be an elusive buzzword because the leader does not necessarily value others’ input. What the leader hears is more of an echo of his thoughts, a reverberating sound, not a grounded reply. In other words, you’re not necessarily getting a fresh perspective. Also, if the sounding board is a “yes” person, your message is simply and likely being repeated back to you. Ideally, you want an individual who isn’t afraid to give their opinions—a grounding board—who will take into account what they already know about you.
The second requirement of collaboration is that everyone at the table must give their trust away. This may sound like an unusual practice, but it is essential. Trusting others is a necessary part of having an effective team because the context is a business setting and not a toxic social setting. This act of giving trust away forms the basis of effective communication.
Why is this so? When there is group dysfunction, the basis will always be vested in trust. Therefore, when the group operates dysfunctionally, you clearly know that distrust is present. Distrust leads to fear and fear creates an environment of uncertainty. To avoid distrust, individuals who truly want to function at a high level of Influence Thinking will honor trust and give it freely. Once the group has established the basis of trust, its members are ready to participate in collaboration and innovation.
A good example is King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. No one is at the head; everyone is seated in a position of equality. Titles are unimportant. All voices matter equally and the knights trust that what is spoken benefits the group and not just the one speaking.
How are the leaders in your organization hearing the voice of others? Is there a collaborative effort to reach an innovative solution? We would love to hear your stories below!