I launched my e-book on innovation recently and a discussion with a friend about the book lead to something about innovation that never occurred to me. So I want to address this matter first because I think it is highly relevant for persons who wish to innovate.
What if I look weird?
I asked a good friend of mine and the Chief Executive of a well-known organisation in Namibia to read my book and give me his honest feedback. His reply sparked the writing of this thought piece: “Rikus, the advice in your book makes a lot of sense and certainly made me think about the way we try to innovate around here. But some of the methods and techniques you propose will certainly raise a few eyebrows here. People will think it is weird.”
And then it dawned on me. I have been studying and applying the “ways and means” of innovation for many years now. For me, it is normal. I don’t mind trying new things and looking “stupid.” I have become accustomed to the frowns and the stares. It does not bother me, and I don’t even notice it anymore. It is my normal. But not for everybody. Not all corporate leaders want to “look silly” or try “funny” things.
Deliberately seeking problems, treating customer frustrations as opportunities, asking a lot of “why” questions to frame innovation challenges, running idea campaigns, asking people for their ideas, implementing “small ideas,” creative thinking training, asking frontline staff for ideas, allowing time to implement risky ideas, etc. These things are on the opposite side of elaborate formal reports and serious meetings with serious questions and few laughs and jokes.
So I can not relate to this, and then I forced myself to think about something that would be “weird” for me, but normal for somebody else. And then it dawned on me: physical exercise. I spent much time studying, reading, and writing the last couple of years. So time for exercise was limited, or so I thought. About three years ago, I realized I had to start doing something about my weight and health. So I did the first thing people do with these kinds of decisions. I bought an app.
Armed with the “from couch potato to running 5km” app, I started jogging. With my physique and my total lack of any athletic ability, I did not want to look “weird.” So I did my jogging hidden in the dark of early morning. To cut a long story short, the 5km eventually became 10km, I lost 10kg, and my GP started complimenting me instead of preaching to me.
What’s the point you ask? I do my jogging now where people can see how “weird” I look. Because I don’t mind looking weird when I feel great, and I am fit and healthy. So maybe organisational leaders will also not mind looking “weird” if costs start declining, profits start rising, the company culture grows healthier, employees’ motivation levels improve, and the competitors are choking in your dust. Because that is what innovation and “looking weird” will do for your organisation’s “health and fitness.”
My handbook on Innovation is available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B085S5HJZH