You Could Be Killing Your Company’s Innovation With This One Word

Author: By Maya Hu-Chan

Member of the Association of Corporate Executive Coaches https://www.acec-association.org

Leadership expert and executive coach@mayahuchan

If you ask any leader what quality they’d like their company to embody above all else, most of them would say one word: innovation.

The ability to innovate sounds simple. Be creative! Think outside the box! Take risks! But for these things to happen, people must first work in an environment that fosters innovation and risk-taking. They must feel comfortable taking the risk to think creatively and challenge the status quo. And it’s a leader’s job to make the deliberate choices that create this kind of environment.

I recently spoke with Dr. Darlene Solomon, senior vice president and CTO of Agilent Technologies, for insights on what entrepreneurs and leaders can do to create a culture that facilitates innovation. We discussed the four things leaders must do — and the one thing they absolutely must avoid.

1. Take risks for the right reason. If you are encouraging workers to take risks, it must be in the context of the potential benefit of those risks. “You can’t just talk about risk-taking alone,” Solomon says.  This should also align with your company’s vision and strategy. If everyone understands the impact of their contributions, they have greater buy-in, and can see the value of their contributions, big and small.

2. Recognize and reward short and long-term risks. Leaders should recognize not only when risks are met with immediate reward, but also when people invest in longer-range projects that don’t result in immediate returns. Well before the end goal is achieved, leaders can set objectives along the path and reward contribution.  Recognize teams that work in high-impact/high risk areas, and continue to emphasize your trust and appreciation for their efforts, along with  the potential benefit of their work.

3. Make every voice feel heard. Leaders who create cultures of innovation and trust find a way to make sure everyone feels involved, contributes, and senses their contributions are valued. “It’s not about conforming and having everybody agree on everything,” Solomon says. In fact, everyone’s ideas won’t get the green light. But how you make those people feel about those contributions is key. “A leader is stronger by explaining why they made the decision they did,” Solomon says. Just do so in a way that’s inclusive and not divisive. For example, telling someone that a suggestion that didn’t make it actually helped the team realize and understand a greater point. The result is that person doesn’t feel rejected — they feel valued and are likely to come forward with suggestions in the future.

4. Celebrate Innovation. Agilent runs a company-wide competition every 18 months called “Agilent Innovates”; the goal is to recognize and reward innovation as a key element of Agilent’s strategy. Employees and teams from throughout the company are encouraged to   submit their innovations, whether it was for a new product or solution, or for a process improvement.  The innovations are judged based on their originality and business impact, with the final round of competition being ultimately judged by the company’s CEO staff, which names the President’s Award winners in each category. Not only does a program like this get everyone excited about innovation, it sends the message that the company values and celebrates creativity and risk-taking. “From the CEO to throughout the company, there’s a lot of energy,” Solomon says. “I think it shows that innovation is valued from everywhere in Agilent.”

 

5. Never say failure. “When a project ends, we review what we learned, what we might do differently if appropriate, or maybe how we’re going to take those learnings in a new direction.” Solomon says.  One word that never comes up? Failure. “We don’t call them failures per se. It’s about, ‘what do we do next?'” This culture neutralizes the fear of failure, which can paralyze the freedom to think creatively. “I don’t think that failure is even part of our day-to-day vocabulary,” Solomon says.

Innovation is not a hard-wired, innate gift. It’s not native to a particular region or nation. It flourishes in the right kind of environment, which any leader with sincere intent can create. “Innovation is all about challenging the status quo and I believe that creative motivated people generally have great ideas and innovate well,” Solomon says. “And as leaders we need to provide the right culture and the right leadership to sustain that innovation.”

 

You Could Be Killing Your Company’s Innovation With This One Word

Entrepreneurial leaders do four things to encourage innovation … and there’s one thing they never do

By Maya Hu-ChanLeadership expert and executive coach

CREDIT: Getty Images

If you ask any leader what quality they’d like their company to embody above all else, most of them would say one word: innovation.

The ability to innovate sounds simple. Be creative! Think outside the box! Take risks! But for these things to happen, people must first work in an environment that fosters innovation and risk-taking. They must feel comfortable taking the risk to think creatively and challenge the status quo. And it’s a leader’s job to make the deliberate choices that create this kind of environment.

I recently spoke with Dr. Darlene Solomon, senior vice president and CTO of Agilent Technologies, for insights on what entrepreneurs and leaders can do to create a culture that facilitates innovation. We discussed the four things leaders must do — and the one thing they absolutely must avoid.

1. Take risks for the right reason. If you are encouraging workers to take risks, it must be in the context of the potential benefit of those risks. “You can’t just talk about risk-taking alone,” Solomon says.  This should also align with your company’s vision and strategy. If everyone understands the impact of their contributions, they have greater buy-in, and can see the value of their contributions, big and small.

2. Recognize and reward short and long-term risks. Leaders should recognize not only when risks are met with immediate reward, but also when people invest in longer-range projects that don’t result in immediate returns. Well before the end goal is achieved, leaders can set objectives along the path and reward contribution.  Recognize teams that work in high-impact/high risk areas, and continue to emphasize your trust and appreciation for their efforts, along with  the potential benefit of their work.

3. Make every voice feel heard. Leaders who create cultures of innovation and trust find a way to make sure everyone feels involved, contributes, and senses their contributions are valued. “It’s not about conforming and having everybody agree on everything,” Solomon says. In fact, everyone’s ideas won’t get the green light. But how you make those people feel about those contributions is key. “A leader is stronger by explaining why they made the decision they did,” Solomon says. Just do so in a way that’s inclusive and not divisive. For example, telling someone that a suggestion that didn’t make it actually helped the team realize and understand a greater point. The result is that person doesn’t feel rejected — they feel valued and are likely to come forward with suggestions in the future.

4. Celebrate Innovation. Agilent runs a company-wide competition every 18 months called “Agilent Innovates”; the goal is to recognize and reward innovation as a key element of Agilent’s strategy. Employees and teams from throughout the company are encouraged to   submit their innovations, whether it was for a new product or solution, or for a process improvement.  The innovations are judged based on their originality and business impact, with the final round of competition being ultimately judged by the company’s CEO staff, which names the President’s Award winners in each category. Not only does a program like this get everyone excited about innovation, it sends the message that the company values and celebrates creativity and risk-taking. “From the CEO to throughout the company, there’s a lot of energy,” Solomon says. “I think it shows that innovation is valued from everywhere in Agilent.”

5. Never say failure. “When a project ends, we review what we learned, what we might do differently if appropriate, or maybe how we’re going to take those learnings in a new direction.” Solomon says.  One word that never comes up? Failure. “We don’t call them failures per se. It’s about, ‘what do we do next?'” This culture neutralizes the fear of failure, which can paralyze the freedom to think creatively. “I don’t think that failure is even part of our day-to-day vocabulary,” Solomon says.

Innovation is not a hard-wired, innate gift. It’s not native to a particular region or nation. It flourishes in the right kind of environment, which any leader with sincere intent can create. “Innovation is all about challenging the status quo and I believe that creative motivated people generally have great ideas and innovate well,” Solomon says. “And as leaders we need to provide the right culture and the right leadership to sustain that innovation.”

Managing Burnout: 5 Things You Can Do to Thrive in Our Amazing but Maddening World

We live in an amazing but maddening world.

Just think about it.

You can fly from Los Angeles to Sidney Australia in about 15 hours.

You can use your cell phone to communicate to almost anywhere in the world.

That same cell phone can bring you world news, news about your friends or video instructions in how to put that new gadget together just by typing a few characters into your search bar.

When you think about this, and the advances of not just transportation, but medicine, safety and other technologies, you have to admit, we live in an amazing time.

The Problems with Modern Life

But these advantages are also what makes life maddening.

The cell phone that brings you all that news is also an electronic lease that keeps you tethered to work and assessable to anyone at any time. Like your boss or those friends of yours from Sidney who you met on vacation 3 years ago who just landed. Its 10 PM at night and they want you to go out on the town with them.

On top of that, just think about the maddening pace each day brings.

You have work and then soccer practice, and dance recitals and school projects, and friends, and pets. The list of things that occupy you every day can seem endless.

This never-ending treadmill of life, where you are always on and always available takes a toll on your peace of mind.

For many people it also takes a huge toll on their bodies and their health by causing burnout.

The Affects of Our Maddening Pace

Like you, I have been affected by the speed of our modern world. This speed, this tempo, stresses me out and has sometimes has made me feel anxious. Left alone, this anxiety can grow into a force that sucks the energy from mind and body.

Now, instead getting a good night’s sleep, I wake up tired and listless. Then I find it hard to keep up with all the things my schedule tells me I need to do.

Pretty soon I start feeling frustrated and defeated, almost like a loser.

Maybe this has happened to you.

What Can You Do

After a few years of this happening to me, I found that it was good thing.

Now, I don’t mean I was fortunate to have these feelings. I felt fortunate because it focused me on the research I’ve ended up doing most of my adult life.

You see, after leaving the military, I started studying human behavior. This study led me on a quest to find out how people who live in the same kind of environment as us, can seeming get so much more done than most people. And without burning out.

That’s really the origins of Mindful Mind Hacking. And its what I’ve been working on for nearly 40 years.

While I could go on and on with how Mindful Mind Hacking works, today I just want to give you 5 things that you can do to thrive in our amazing but maddening world. Things I’ve learned along the way that I now regularly teach people, just like you.

1. Meditate:

I was first introduced to meditation in my martial arts practice over 40 years ago. Research has found that it is an excellent practice for lessening stress and anxiety. Just practicing meditation for 10 minutes a day you can help you develop the skill of quietening your mind and finding inner peace.

2. Remove the Negative:

Another thing you can do is remove as many of the real negative distractions you have in your life as possible.

First, again, if possible, remove anyone who has a negative effect on you. Second, discipline yourself to pay less attention to the news. Third, stay away from office gossip. These people and activities will just suck the energy from your body and soul.

3. Learn to Say “No!”:

When I work with clients who are dealing with burnout I ask them to write out their schedules. Most of them have a schedule so full that it’s hard to tell how three people could do all of the tasks they have on their lists.

Why are their schedules so full? It’s because they haven’t learned how to say “No!”. So that’s what I teach them.

Here’s what happens. After learning to say “No!”, these clients are able to limit the items on their “to do” list to only those they actually need or want to do.

Look, you’re no good to anyone if you’re burnt out. Learn to drop the guilt and worry that you’re letting people down. Just learn to say “No”.

4. Practice Mindfulness:

Like meditation, I learned the practice of mindfulness through practicing martial arts. While mindfulness is a part of all martial arts training, it is more intensely practiced in “internal” martial arts like Tai Chi and Qigong.

Mindfulness is powerful in that its practice is used to focus your mind on the present. Being in the present helps you slow down and stay in the world of here and now. This allows you to focus on what you are doing and keeps you away from the things that can burn you out like worry about the future and anxiety about the past.

5. Tell Yourself Positive Affirmations:

I found out a long time ago that I was, like everyone else in the world, constantly talking to myself. My research made me ask the question, “Wil, what are you saying to yourself”?

What I found was I was telling myself a lot of negative stuff. Negative stuff like “you’re not good enough” or “you’re not smart enough”.

After I discovered positive affirmations I found I was able to counter this constant negative input. That’s because when you use positive affirmations you are purposely choosing the kind of self-talk you want to tell yourself.

For example, “I can achieve the great things I set my mind to” or “I am calm and relaxed. My mind is at peace. I can create the life I desire.”

When you consistently put positive affirmations into your mind you are choosing the way you think and, ultimately, how you act.

It is easy to write your own positive affirmations. You can find examples online or in books. Simply write out a positive statement in the present tense that expresses how you want to think, feel or behave.

Because of their positive benefit, positive affirmations are one of the many tools I use in Mindful Mind Hacking to help myself and others.

Maddening or Amazing?

By choosing to use these 5 things you can do to thrive, you can let go of the maddening parts of modern life. When you do this, you will have more energy, more focus and what you’ll find is life can be amazing once more.

Author: Wil Dieck:  http://mindfulmindhacking.com/mindful-mind-hacking-basics/