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Encouraging a more innovative culture

As organizations are navigating the COVID-19, many organizations are forced to adapt or face dire consequences. Leaders are asking, “How might we develop a more innovative culture?”

In a previous blog, I applied John Kotter’s change management process to crisis planning. The first step of his process is “Create a sense of urgency.” The pandemic has provided a “sense of urgency. Organizations can view this time as an opportunity to evaluate how they operate and determine how they will behave in the future. 

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In The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, Daniel Coyle shares three skills of highly successful organizational cultures: (1) Build safety, (2) Share vulnerability, and (3) Establish purpose. Under each skill, I’ve included strategies for leaders to encourage innovation. 

Skill 1: Build safety

When we “build safety,” team members experience a sense of belonging. In addition, they feel psychologically safe to share new ideas without fear of judgement or repercussion.

“Build safety” innovation strategy #1: Google has studied the characteristics of effective teams, and the most important characteristic is psychological safety. One strategy they use to encourage psychological safety is to begin meetings with each team member sharing a recent risk they took. No judgement is passed on whether the risk taking led to a successful result.

“Build safety” innovation strategy #2: Our approach to facilitating creative problem solving includes divergent and convergent thinking. Instead of traditional meetings that invite evaluation after each new idea is shared, we encourage collecting all ideas while deferring judgement. After all ideas are collected, we then use convergent thinking to evaluate ideas and begin focusing our options. This approach fosters creative thinking and psychological safety. 

Skill 2: Share vulnerability

Team members who display vulnerability willingly share when they don’t know something and need help. They are willing to admit when they are wrong and encourage learning from mistakes. 

“Share vulnerability” innovation strategy #1 Similar to the Google strategy to foster psychological safety, I encourage teams to find opportunities for each team member to share something they want or need to learn in the near future. Team members can volunteer to impart knowledge to others who desire to learn more about a topic. 

“Share vulnerability” innovation strategy #2: When we suggest new ideas to our team members, we often feel compelled to “sell” the idea as a complete solution. I recommend developing a meeting environment that allows team members to present ideas as imperfect and incomplete. In this type of seeing, we can admit that our ideas are not perfect and solicit open and honest feedback from our team members. 

Skill 3: Establish purpose

Team members share a sense of shared purpose. They understand why their organization exists and have a shared vision for the future. 

“Establish purpose” innovation strategy #1: In recent years, Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action has emphasized the importance of determining our individual and organizational purpose (our “why”) before we identify our “how” and “what.” All employees can benefit from understanding their organization’s purpose and aligning their decisions with it. 

“Establish purpose” innovation strategy #2: Leaders need to articulate their organization’s purpose and intentionally discuss what that means and looks like. Leaders can highlight important decisions and recognize individuals who live out the organization’s purpose. 

Successful organizational cultures take time to develop. Leaders must intentionally work towards develop a company culture that fosters innovation. Organizations that are able to adapt and innovate during this pandemic will be much stronger in the long run than those who attempt to maintain the status quo.

How can we help your organization develop a more innovative culture? We provide creative problem solving training, leadership coaching, and strategic planning services. Contact us to learn more.

References:

Coyle, D. (2018). The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups. Bantam Books.

Sinek, S. (2009). Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Portfolio.

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

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Certified Practitioner.

What is your organization’s long term remote working strategy?

I recently provided a webinar through University of Evansville’s Center for the Advancement of Learning related to engaging remote workers. As organizations navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, many are scrambling to accommodate a remote work environment for their employees. The adjustment can be particularly challenging for those organizations who have maintained a traditional office working environment. I encourage organizations to explore whether there are new opportunities for them as a result of the current remote working environment. 

Gallup has been tracking employee engagement since 2000. They categorize employees into the following groups (Harter, 4 February 2020):

  1. Engaged – “those who are highly involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace”
  2. Not engaged – “those who are psychologically unattached to their work and company and who put time, but not energy or passion, into their work”
  3. Actively disengaged – “those who have miserable work experiences and spread their unhappiness to their colleagues”

Gallup reports a record percentage of employees at the engaged level for 2019: 35% (with 52% not engaged and 13% actively disengaged). According to Harter (4 February 2020), engaged employees: 

  • “produce substantially better outcomes
  • treat customers better and attract new ones
  • are more likely to remain with their organization than those who are less engaged.
  • Engaged employees are also healthier and less likely to experience burnout.”

According to the Remote Work Study (Zapier, 13 November 2019), 

  • “95 percent of U.S. knowledge workers want to work remotely”
  • “74 percent would be willing to quit a job to do so”
  • “57 percent” say the option to work remotely is one of the perks they’d most prefer to be offered by an employer.

I was surprised to see the incredibly high interest in remote working, and I think there will be continued desire for remote working after the pandemic. 

Gallup (Hickman & Robison, 24 January 2020) has linked the highest level of engagement to those who work remotely three to four days a week (60%-<80%) and work in the office one to two days a week (41% engaged, 48% not engaged, and 11% actively disengaged). It is important to note that employees who worked remotely all of the time had lower levels of engagement (30% engaged, 54% not engaged, and 16% actively disengaged), and these engagement numbers are similar to those who do not work remotely at all (30% engaged, 55% not engaged, and 15% actively disengaged). 

Based on the desire for employees to work remotely and the high levels of engagement that can result from a hybrid remote working environment (time spent working remotely and in a traditional office), organizations have the opportunity to reimagine their future working arrangements. 

Here are some items to consider regarding remote working:

  1. Are there cost savings opportunities to reduce office space?
  2. Will a remote working environment help us improve employee engagement?
  3. Will a remote work environment help us retain and attract talent?
  4. Are our leaders equipped with the necessary skills to successfully manage remote employees?
  5. What work activities can take place remotely and what needs to take place in person?
  6. Do we need to more fully explore ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) to clearly define outcomes for employees’ work?

As many organizations are developing a plan to return to the office, I recommend strategic discussions about the future of remote working in organizations. This is a great opportunity to gather input and make decisions that could have an impact on the future success of organizations. We are skilled facilitators who have helped organizations navigate complex problem solving. If you need help in this area, please contact us

References:

Harter, J. (2020, February 4). 4 Factors Driving Record-High Employee Engagement in U.S. Retrieved from https://www.gallup.com/workplace/284180/factors-driving-record-high-employee-engagement.aspx

Hickman, A., & Robison, J, (24 January 2020). Is Working Remotely Effective? Gallup Research Says Yes. Retrieved from https://www.gallup.com/workplace/283985/working-remotely-effective-gallup-research-says-yes.aspx

Zapier Editorial Team (13 November 2019). The Remote Work Report. Retrieved from https://zapier.com/blog/remote-work-report-by-zapier/

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

Ready to learn how we can help your organization develop a planning process for long term success?

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer.

Looking to virtually build your team’s creative and collaborative capacity?

As organizations navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, our clients regularly discuss the importance of encouraging innovative thinking and building effective teams. They are looking to:

  1. Develop a more cohesive team in this remote work environment.
  2. Encourage innovative thinking among individuals and the team.
  3. Develop individuals’ appreciation and understanding of team member differences.
  4. Introduce a common vocabulary that fosters more creative and collaborative thinking. 

We’re excited to offer a two hour virtual Creative Thinking Boot Camp that helps teams build their individual and collective abilities to think creatively and work collaboratively. This is one of our most popular introductory offerings and has been used by a wide variety of organizations to build more creative, collaborative, and effective teams. 

The Two Hour Boot Camp is offered through a highly interactive and engaging online Zoom workshop. We’ve all attended many boring webinars, but this workshop includes hands on exercises, discussions, and small group activities. It has been well received by businesses, nonprofits, churches, and schools. 

Participants learn about why innovation is so important now, divergent and convergent thinking, what hinders creativity and innovation, and characteristics of effective and innovative teams. In advance of the workshop, participants will complete the Basadur Profile which is used to help them understand how they and those around them approach creativity and problem solving. At the end of the workshop, participants will discuss how they can apply these skills within their organization.

We are scheduling Creative Thinking Boot Camps right now. Please contact us for more information. We look forward to hearing from you. 

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

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer.

A leader’s infinite mindset inspires

I recently read Simon Sinek’s The Infinite Game, and I find many of the concepts particularly relevant to our current situation. All individuals and organizations have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in some way, and the uncertainty of the situation is particularly troubling. Restrictions are gradually being lifted where I live, and that seems to create hope for many people that better times are in sight. However, there is still anxiety about the chance of a second wave and the accompanying implications on our health and economy. 

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In The Infinite Game, Sinek describes finite and infinite games. We are all very familiar and comfortable with finite games, because they have defined rules, players, etc. Athletic events are examples of finite games, and we know what it takes to win one. In business, quarterly or annual financial benchmarks are examples of finite games. Businesses set a goal, and we know whether we “won” or “lost” based on whether we met the metric. 

In contrast, “the primary objective is to keep playing, to perpetuate the game” in infinite games (p. 4). I think the infinite game is about knowing who we are at our individual and organizational best rather than looking for finite measures. It is a long term perspective that focuses on success now and especially in the future. Sinek writes:

“In the Infinite Game, the true value of an organization cannot be measured by the success it has achieved based on a set of arbitrary metrics over arbitrary time frames. The true value of an organization is measured by the desire others have to contribute to that organization’s ability to keep succeeding, not just during the time they are there, but well beyond their own tenure.” (p. 9)

Many organizations are losing the finite game as we speak. They are missing monthly and quarterly quotas, decreased sales, lower productivity, laying off employees, etc. It is easy to succumb to finite thinking and get discouraged. During difficult times, leaders often have a short term perspective.

During the challenges brought by the pandemic, I encourage leaders to think about the infinite game. How might we use this time to ensure our organizations are better in the long run? At some point, we know scientists will find a vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19. It’s only a question of when. 

During the challenging weeks and months ahead, how are leaders building teams and employees focused on their “organization’s ability to keep succeeding?” (p. 9). This is a time when leaders can focus on improving company culture, expanding technology capabilities, developing innovative products and services, training their team, and other areas that contribute to the infinite game. While there are many things out of the control of leaders right now, leaders can focus on those areas they have influence over.

Here are some questions worth reflecting on and discussing:

  1. Is our organization focused on the finite game or the infinite game?
  2. How might we build a stronger company culture where everyone is focused on the “organization’s ability to keep succeeding?” (p. 9)?
  3. What can we do now to make our organization and people better in the long run?
  4. How might we view this time as an opportunity to act on items that we have previously put off?

The finite mindset focuses on just surviving the pandemic until life gets back to normal. The infinite mindset focuses on a path that will allow the organization to thrive now and in the future. Finite does not inspire. An infinite mindset inspires people to dream big and be part of something bigger than themselves. 

We help clients focus on an infinite mindset through planning processes, leadership coaching, and building organizational culture. 

Reference: Sinek, S. (2019). The Infinite Game.

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

Ready to learn how we can help your organization and leaders develop an infinite mindset?

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer.

The value of gathering feedback and debriefing right now

We have made adjustments in our organizational and personal lives as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many organizations have implemented remote working, modified services, and developed new products. Some have fundamentally changed how they operate. I have had some disappointing experiences in recent weeks with retailers, but I have also had some great experiences. 

I wonder if organizations are taking time to ask the following questions:

  1. How are these changes going?
  2. What are we doing well?
  3. What lessons have we learned?
  4. What changes do we need to make?

When I facilitate meetings, I try to spend time at the end debriefing the meeting as a group. Doug Sundheim wrote: “Debriefing is a structured learning process designed to continuously evolve plans while they’re being executed.” The debriefing provides the group an opportunity to reflect on their work together and identify ways to improve their performance in the future. In addition, I use a debriefing during and at the end of projects and processes. 

K-12 schools and universities across the country are adjusting to providing virtual instruction. Many have limited experience with e-learning, and some have never done it before. 

Higher education has struggled in recent years as a result of increasing tuition rates, low unemployment, and decreasing numbers of high school graduates. Many private universities will especially feel the economic consequences of the pandemic. Families will be forced to make difficult financial decisions due to decreased wages or economic uncertainty. 

We all know that retaining an existing customer is easier than gaining a new customer. As an organization makes major changes in response to a crisis, it needs to take time to debrief on how well things are going. As Sundheim suggested, we need to “continuously evolve plans while they’re being executed.”

If you’re a K-12 school or university, are you asking your students and families how well virtual learning is going? This feedback will be critical for satisfaction rates, retention rates, relationship building, and quality learning experiences.

If you’re a restaurant or retailer that has adjusted to curbside pick ups, are you asking your customers about the quality of their experience? This feedback will be critical for satisfaction rates, ease of experience, customer retention, and attracting new customers.

If you’re a company that has moved to increased remote working environments, are you asking your employees about their job satisfaction? This feedback will be critical for retaining top talent, employee productivity, and customer service. 

If you’re a nonprofit who is dependent on donor support, are you asking your donors about their experiences with the organization? This feedback will be critical for donor retention, prioritization of services, and future initiatives.

In recent weeks, we have administered surveys and have been surprised to receive higher response rates than we typically anticipate. Some people are busier now, but many have more time than usual to provide valuable input. This is an opportunity for organizations right now. Consider asking for overall satisfaction levels and opportunities to improve, especially when you add new or change existing services. After you gather input, your team can use the debriefing questions listed above.

Strong organizations will gather feedback and make adjustments to ensure high satisfaction levels, customer retention rates, improve relationships, and boost productivity levels. During difficult times, people will remember whether you made their lives easier or more difficult. The organizations that are willing to listen now will be stronger in the near and long term. 

We help organizations gather feedback and facilitate planning processes to ensure future success. There can be advantages of utilizing an outside resource in the midst of a crisis. Please contact us for more information.

We wish you health and happiness. Stay well.

Sundheim, D. (2015, July 2). Debriefing: A simple tool to help your team tackle tough problems. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2015/07/debriefing-a-simple-tool-to-help-your-team-tackle-tough-problems

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

Ready to learn how we can help your organization collect feedback and develop a plan for organizational success?

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer.