What keeps innovation facilitators up at night? Ideas, yes. But it’s also something we call the “week after” syndrome.
It’s how to sustain and inculcate the learnings and behaviors into the organization or group beyond the workshop. We hope, but we can’t mandate. So while some of the tools and techniques are used, the habit of innovative thinking fades as the organization returns to the day-to-day business of the business.
At Inotivity, we try to gain a commitment from the organization or group to follow up the next week and the next month and track how what behaviors have changed or whether it’s business as usual.
Very often, the natural gravity of “other priorities” pulls the organization back to a kind of enlightened status quo.
So how do you fight the status quo? There are many remedies and one of mine is a book I recommend to groups to review and discuss a week after a session. It’s Phil McKinney’s Beyond the Obvious.
Phil McKinney is President and CEO of CableLabs. In this capacity he heads the research and development organization responsible for charting the cable industry’s technology and innovation roadmap. Prior to joining CableLabs, Phil was the Vice President and chief technology officer of the $40 billion Personal Systems Group at Hewlett-Packard.
The true gold of McKinney’s book is a roadmap for thinking beyond the obvious by asking “Killer Questions.”
But there are gems within the book that have less to do with “Killer Questions,” than idea killers – the “Corporate Antibodies.”
“The antagonist of the innovator is the corporate antibody. Much as antibodies in our immune system attack and destroy foreign objects that might harm the body, ‘antibodies’ in your organization identify and neutralize forces that threaten to destabilize a company.”
The key takeaway here is that if you don’t know how to deal with this habitual resistance, asking Killer Questions will be futile.
Caveat! Resistance isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The job of a company is to return value to shareholders or achieve sustainable growth. So, leaders in a company are the stewards of the company, the organization, and the brand. They simply cannot chase creative rabbits down every hole.
The key isn’t to resist the resisters, but to find more innovative ways to get buy in of innovative ideas that are either 1) game changers or 2) can be funneled into a test and learn strategy.
McKinney has great insights and profiles the four types of corporate antibodies.
1. The Ego Response
“Oh, I already thought of that a long time ago.”
“Somebody else has already come up with that idea.”
“I have something better.”
“These are classic ego-driven responses,” write McKinney. “You may think you are talking about business, but you are actually engaged in a very personal exchange about your respective places in the hierarchy of your organization.”
2. The Fatigued Response
“You will never get approval.”
“We tried that before.”
“Who’s going to do it?”
“It won’t fit our organization.”
This is case when leaders hear your idea their inner voice says “I’ve pitched a dozen ideas in the past five years and all of them got blown out of the water, none got approved.” So, they have understandable battle fatigue or what we call a CLM (Career Limiting Move).
3. The No-Risk Response
“We can’t afford that.”
“Not enough return on investment.”
In a few words: There’s no risk in saying no; there’s a risk in saying yes.
4. The Comfort Response
“We’ve always done it this way.”
“Our customer likes it this way.”
“Don’t rock the boat.”
Comfort zones are there for a reason, they don’t invoke anxiety or threaten careers (in general.)
McKinney sums up his Corporate Antibody chapter with some sage advice, “Nearly all great ideas require nerve, vision and guts to get in motion. The corporate antibody is the first of many hurdles that you’ll need to push your idea past.”
For most of you, this may seem a blinding flash of the obvious.
But that’s where innovating how you strategize, develop, and sell your ideas becomes even more vital to a success strategy. What if the lens for evaluating ideas includes the 4 types of antibodies?
3. No Risk
This is on the wall and/or part of the evaluation process. Ask the killer question, is your résistance based on any of these four mind-sets?
Check out McKinney’s book: