Why is innovation so important now and how can organizations become more innovative?

At the beginning of 2019, LinkedIn published a study of hard and soft skills needed by employers. The top five soft skills include: creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and time management. As a former educator, I think the focus on standardized testing has led to placing less value on creativity and innovation in schools. We are seeing employees in the workplace that need help with their creative and critical thinking.

Think about the changes that have occurred in the last 10-20 years. We are experiencing an accelerating rate of change. The Internet and other technologies have led to an explosive growth of the amount of information available to all of us. As a result, we are able to more quickly access information than ever before and innovate faster. The following timeline from Peter Fisk demonstrates how the rate of change is accelerating.

Patents are not the only sign of innovation, but they indicate that we are experiencing an accelerating rate of change. This article shares how the number of patents have been granted since the U.S. Patent Office opened in 1790. According to the article, “In the first decade of the patent office, the U.S. granted 229 patents—the same amount today’s America grants every 7.2 hours.”

As the rate of change accelerates, organizations need to make sure they keep up with the competition and anticipate changes and opportunities. The word disruption is often used to describe innovations that result in new markets and ultimately change needs for leading products and services. There are plenty of examples: Amazon has disrupted traditional retailers, Netflix and video streaming nearly eliminated all traditional rental video stores, and Wikipedia wiped out the need for traditional published encyclopedias.

In this HBR article, Minor, Brook, and Bernoff discuss how innovation really works. They share that innovative organizations generate more ideas than less innovative organizations. In addition, they have systems in place to collect ideas, evaluate them, and implement them. This may seem common sense, but I find many organizations actually discourage innovation in the following ways:

  1. New ideas are judged too quickly or criticized harshly in a way that discourages people from being willing to share them.
  2. Not enough time is spent generating new ideas. The organization continues to operate as they have previously or make minor improvements to existing products and services.
  3. There are real or perceived consequences for taking risks. It feels safer and easier for employees to maintain the status quo than take risks.
  4. Ideas are generated and shared, but there is no follow up or system in place to implement them. When no change occurs, employees feel that coming up with new ideas is a waste of time.
  5. Teams are created with like-minded people that struggle to think outside the box. Most organizations are becoming more aware of the importance of diversity, especially related to age, gender, race, and ethnic background, but we don’t think enough about cognitive diversity. You can read more about cognitive diversity here.

A few questions to consider:

  1. How does your organize encourage employees to generate new ideas?
  2. How much time do you spend generating new ideas?
  3. Do you encourage risk taking and encourage employees to learn from mistakes.
  4. Do you have a system in place to collect ideas, evaluate them, and implement them?
  5. How have you intentionally developed cognitively diverse teams?

We offer a variety of workshops designed to help organizations generate more ideas in creative and collaborative settings. In addition, we use the Basadur Profile to help develop cognitively diverse teams. Some of our offerings are only two and four hours long and can be a very affordable way to increase creativity and develop more effective and collaborative teams. We also offer comprehensive creative problem solving facilitator training in the Basadur Simplexity Thinking process. This training develops the skills of participants to facilitate complex problem solving within your organization.

We can help you develop a system for collecting ideas, evaluating them, and implementing them. If you need an outside facilitator to guide you through a creative problem solving process, we can also provide that service.

We encourage you to spend some time reflecting on the questions above. Thank you for reading.

Tad Dickel, Ph.D.

Help your organization enhance creativity, innovation, and collaboration.

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, creativity, and strategy in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer and has provided this training to people in business, government, education, and non-profit sectors. He helps organizations think more creatively and work more collaboratively to solve complex problems, He has received a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership.

Is your organization’s 2020 vision in focus?

I used to pride myself on my ability to multitask, and I was surprised when I started reading articles about the “myth of multitasking.” You can Google that phrase and find many articles that discuss the negative consequences of multitasking on productivity. One particular article can be found here.

As I have learned about the advantages of clear focus, my personal productivity has significantly approved. I try to start each day with key priorities in mind, and this approach allows me to spend my limited amount of time on what is most important.

Many organizations are guilty of multitasking. We take on numerous goals, initiatives and tasks and struggle to focus on what is most important. It is too easy for us to get caught up in our day to day responsibilities and ignore more strategic items. A survival mindset prevents us from looking at the big picture and setting a vision for where we are going.

In The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling, the authors urged leaders and organizations to set a clear goal and provided a framework for executing it. They wrote:

“MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller says, ‘Trying to concentrate on two tasks causes an overload of the brain’s processing capacity…Particularly when people try to perform similar tasks at the same time, such as writing an email and talking on the phone, they compete to use the same part of the brain. Trying to carry too much, the brain simply slows down.’ If this is true of simple tasks like processing emails and phone calls, think of the impact of losing focus on the goals that could transform your business.” (2012, pp. 25-26)

We are now well into the 4th quarter of the year. Does your business or organization have a clear vision for 2020? Have you spent time focusing on what is going well and what needs to change? As a business owner, I find myself now wrapping up this year and carefully planning for next year. I imagine you are thinking about what 2020 will bring for your business or organization. We often neglect to carve out time to discuss some of the most important business discussions. These questions might include but are not limited to:

  • What successes have we experienced?
  • What lessons have we learned?
  • What opportunities exist for growth, better services, and new products?
  • What is one area that we could focus on to improve our business or organization significantly?
  • Where are we going as an organization?
  • Where should we be going as an organization?

Setting aside time to bring together employees and/or other stakeholders to discuss these questions is a valuable investment to set clear priorities, develop buy in, improve as an organization, create accountability, and learn from others.

These discussions often take place in the context of an extended strategy meeting or retreat. Utilizing an external facilitator can ensure all employees and/or stakeholders are able to fully participate in the discussion and not be worried about running the meeting process. After the meeting, we can provide a report with key priorities to consider. T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is trained and experienced in facilitating these types of important discussions and are now scheduling facilitated team retreats and meetings for the end of the year and early 2020.

Please contact us to schedule an initial discovery conversation and learn more about how a facilitator can help your organization plan for success in 2020. We offer customized retreats and meeting facilitation in various time formats and locations. In addition, we can include team building activities to enhance the cohesiveness and effectiveness of your team.

If you are looking for a way to establish a collective vision and focus for 2020, please contact us. We wish you a happy and successful 2020.

Tad Dickel, Ph.D.

Dr. Tad Dickel is the President of T.A. Dickel Group, LLC and is based in Evansville, Indiana. His services enhance organizational leadership, creativity, and strategy in the surrounding region.

Creative Problem Solving for Congregations

Dr. Tad Dickel will provide a “Creative Problem Solving for Congregations” workshop through the Center for Congregations on October 23 in Evansville, Indiana. The workshop will help attendees improve how they creatively approach complex problems encountered by their congregations.

All attendees will take the Basadur Profile in advance of the workshop to better understand their preferred creative problem styles. During the workshop, attendees will learn how their styles influence their creativity and problem solving as individuals and in teams. Other topics include effective meetings, productive conversations, and team building.

The workshop will introduce ways to enhance creative thinking and apply these skills to real problems experienced by congregations. Learn more at the following link:

To discuss this type of offering for your company or organization, please contact us. We offer a variety of options to help organizations enhance how they think creatively and work collaboratively to solve complex problems.

Building Effective Teams Across Generations

Tad Dickel recently presented at the AAF-CRC (American Advertising Federation Central Region Conference on the topic “Building Effective Teams Across Generations.”

Here are some highlights from the presentation:

There are currently five generations in the workplace:

Millennials are now the largest generation in the workplace:

In the book Sticking Points, Haydn Shaw (2013) identified twelve common challenges for different generations to navigate:

  1. “Communication: What is the best way to interact with my coworkers?
  2. Decision Making: How do we decide what to do?
  3. Dress Code: How casually can I dress?
  4. Feedback: How often and in what ways do I want input?
  5. Fun at Work: How much fun at work is allowed?
  6. Knowledge Transfer: How do we pass on critical knowledge to new employees?
  7. Loyalty: When is it okay to move on?
  8. Meetings: What should happen in our meetings?
  9. Policies: Are policies rules or guidelines?
  10. Respect: How do I get others to respect me?
  11. Training: How do I learn best?
  12. Work Ethic: How many hours are required, and when must I work them?” (p. 30)

Shaw (2013) also developed a five step strategy for working through these “sticking points”:

  1. “Acknowledge: Talk about generational differences.
  2. Appreciate: Focus on the “why,” not the “what,” and the common needs.
  3. Flex: Agree on how to accommodate different approaches.
  4. Leverage: Maximize the strengths of each generation.
  5. Resolve: Determine which option will yield the best results (when flexing isn’t enough.” (p. 31)

When we talk about generational differences, this is often done in a negative manner. We need to:

  1. Show respect
  2. Appreciate differences
  3. Be careful about stereotypes
  4. We are more similar than different

We provide training on building effective teams across generations and also help facilitate these important conversations related to these differences.

Does your organization have a leadership development strategy?

The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner is considered a classic leadership book by many. Through years of research, the authors have identified “The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership”:

  1. “Model the Way
  2. Inspire a Shared Vision
  3. Challenge the Process
  4. Enable Others to Act
  5. Encourage the Heart”

Leaders who put these practices into action more often than other leaders:

  1. “Create higher-performing teams
  2. Generate increased sales and customer satisfaction levels
  3. Foster renewed loyalty and greater organizational commitment
  4. Enhance motivation and the willingness to work hard
  5. Facilitate high patient-satisfaction scores and more effectively meet family member needs
  6. Promote high degrees of student and teacher involvement in schools
  7. Enlarge the membership size of their religious congregations
  8. Reduce absenteeism, turnover, and dropout rates
  9. Positively influence recruitment yields” (from The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner)

The Center for Creative Leadership (2015) has identified a leadership “skills gap” based on the most important leadership skills that are most in need as identified by current leaders:

  1. “Inspiring commitment
  2. Leading employees
  3. Strategic planning
  4. Change management
  5. Employee development
  6. Self-awareness”

High quality leadership makes a positive difference, but many organizations have not developed strategies to develop leaders. Although leadership is important, many people move into managerial and leadership positions and must “sink or swim.” This can be expensive and detrimental for organizations.

Do you see these as the key leadership gaps in your organization? What strategies have you developed or need to develop to address these “gaps”? How can we help you develop a leadership development strategy?