Innovation, 2011

Innovation is hot. Just this year…

  • They’re mobile devices and not phones anymore.
  • Microsoft’s Kinetic takes the Nintendo Wii to the next level with a hands free gaming device.
  • An inventor in Japan is designing a high speed train that doesn’t have to stop to pick up or let off passenger
  • For the leaping impaired, Concept 1 has designed a new basketball shoe that adds 4 inches to a basketball players vertical leap, even giving guys like me hope that someday I may be able to dunk a basketball
  • Even macroeconomics is being democratized with web sites such as FRED, hosted by the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank that provides over 26,000 accessible data bases worth of economic information.

All this and more was highlighted in last week’s Sunday New York Times magazine along with a fascinating article how corporations are working to improve the “innovation” thinking of their employees. Actually, while the idea is to spark innovation, the reality is that the effort is just to get people to “think” first and then perhaps we can move on to innovation thinking.

Why this is important today relates to the shifting roles of managers and leaders. When computers became ubiquitous in our workplaces, they removed the requirement for managers to crank through data analyzing the information and then reporting it to the powers to be. Today managing data alone is taken care of and the role of leaders in organizations is to manage activities with vision and creativity that helps the organization grow and differentiate itself from their competitors

But to me, the most interesting part of the article was the idea that in order to get people to think, you’ve got them to start “feeling” differently…

“At Jump, they prefer to brainstorm with a variation of a technique pioneered in Improv Theater. A comic offers the first sentence of a story, which lurches into a (hopefully funny) tale, when someone else says, “Yes, and?” then adds another sentence, which leads to another “Yes, and?”— and back and forth it goes. In the context of brainstorming, what was once a contest is transformed into a group exercise in storytelling. It has turned into a collaboration”.

The subtle but powerful shift in using a technique like this is that you move people from their head to their body…from their brain to the heart…from their mind to their soul. Using ideas from the arts helps us access all of our resources that will help us access their whole being and not just our head.

While “Thought Leaders” are those men and women who come up with new ideas that get implemented in organizations, perhaps it is also time to recognize “Feeling Leaders” who are the men and women who inspire us and move us to change in our organizations. Mitch Ditkoff, an innovation thinker wrote about this idea following the World Innovation Forum held in NYC this year.

He wrote that when we experience innovation, it excites us, energizes us and most importantly moves us to take action, in fact, innovation moves us to dance and experience the world fully. That’s why it seems so interesting to me that the firms highlighted in last week’s NYT magazine emphasized theatrical strategies for creating innovation. In order to get out of our literal mindset, we’ve got to get out of our head and into our bodies.

Movement, story telling, singing and drawing generate the kinds of ideas that forge innovation. For me, I practice Interplay (interplay.org) that is an improvisational art form that builds teams and communities and inspires the heart and the mind to new ideas.

So what’s the takeaway:

  1. Enjoy your innovations and use them fully, always appreciating the amazing ways that they transform your life…and if you are outside the cell range of your smart phone or it does not work as quickly as you’d like…relax and wait 5 mintues, it’ll be back up
  2. Bring innovation to your life and workplace by bringing in new ways to create. Take your team off site and bring in an innovation Feeling Leader; Share a book with your team and engage in a discussion about the merits of its approaches to your work. Challenge your staff to find new ways to cut the time that it takes to complete a project using  new brainstorming or problem solving approaches.

Being innovative is not easy but when it happens it creates amazing results. Go out and become a Feeling Leader and find the next great innovation for your life and work

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