A Channel to Innovation
A few years back I was called in to work with a new Product Development team that had been experiencing several setbacks and delays. The cause being new technology; an important part of the firm’s overall growth strategy. It was designed to fill a gap that existed in the new product pipeline. I spent a few days with the marketing executive who was leading the team. He suggested that I spend some time with individual team members before meeting with the collective team. After initial conversations, I called the leader and said, “This team has a group of experts who do all of the things a high-performing team can or should do, except knowing how to think collectively and dialogue appropriately in a way that provides true breakthrough.”
We agreed as a team that an intervention—a new approach—was needed as they couldn’t get to a new product launch—literally stuck on a situation for over 6 months, and the organization was bleeding dollars.
In one of the most inspiring leadership books, Synchronicity: The Inner Path to Leadership, renowned author, Joseph Jaworski, writes ….
“If people were to think together in a coherent way, it would have tremendous power. If there was an opportunity for sustained dialogue over a period of time, we would have a coherent movement of thought, not only at the conscious level we all recognize, but even more importantly at the tacit unspoken level which cannot be described. Dialogue does not require people to agree with each other, instead it encourages people to participant in a pool of shared meaning that leads to aligned action.”
One of our (GlobalEdg’s) core principles of Strategic Thinking is creating/developing the ability to openly dialogue and challenge underlying assumptions. And, being able to do this in a way that allows people to be heard and empowered to find solutions. Learning to effectively Challenge Assumptions is defined in Think to Win: Unleashing the Power of Strategic Thinking by Butler, Manfredi, Klein. An excerpt from the book:
“Having an open mind is a necessity. It starts with an exploration of what you might be taking for granted. Peel away any built-up layers of assumptions by asking how they came to be accepted, and envisioning what would happen if they were not.
Begin by asking the “What If” and “Why” questions:
- Why did we see the need for this decision in the past?
- What if we do things differently?
- What if our biggest competitor were in this room; what would he or she say about us?
- What if we re-imagine things radically? What if we create a new market segment?
- What if I owned this business? What would I do differently?”
By applying the Think to Win strategies, the team began to master the ability to dialogue more effectively, they learned to collectively think and produce results. This allowed for accountability and cross-functional collaboration in a different, more authentic way. The results—the team accelerated its work and delivered the new product to market ahead of schedule. That product is still in the market today and doing well. Just as important, the organization gained and replicated this capability with future product launch teams.