We’ve always had to innovate to thrive. From developing better clubs for bonking food on the head to wrapping wheels in rubber or miniaturizing on-off switches and building faster, brighter, and more shiny machines upon which we can design faster, brighter, shinier machines.
Now look out at your own organization. Chances are, unless you’re bootstrapping a start-up, it’s becoming increasingly large and complex with formal structures that don’t do a lot to foster innovation or adaptability.
It doesn’t have to be that way, and you’re the solution. Use these three lessons to improve your ability to adapt and innovate.
Journal with Purpose
Take ten minutes at the end of each day to write a reflective journal. Learning is adaptation – and it’s key to fostering a capacity for innovation. A structured reflective journal helps you move from being an actor to being an observer.
Kolb’s experiential learning cycle (ELM) is a great starter format for a learning journal. Follow the 4 steps in the list below to write a journal that will help you improve your ability to adapt and identify opportunities for innovation.
- Concrete experience
- Jot down a few quick sentences about something that happened that day. Write it how it is, not how you feel about it.
- Reflective observation
- Here’s where you write a few sentences about how you felt, what you might have affected your actions or decisions.
- Abstract conceptualization
- OK, so you know what happened, and how you reacted and perceived the situation.Write down one or two things you’ve learned from the experience.
- Active experimentation
- Make a plan for action. Write down one thing you’ll do tomorrow to take an element of what you’ve learned and make it real.
Ten minutes, eight to sixteen short sentences, applicable learning. Repeat at the end of each day and you’ll develop the ability to run this cycle during your day – you’ll be both the actor and observer. Brilliant.
There are initiatives across sectors to foster innovation, but a glance at what makes our federal list of innovative practices brings the sad state of innovation at major employers into sharp relief:
- The City of Ottawa compensating employees for the time they spend using email, the internet, or text messages when responding to work-related requests outside of regular hours.
- Oil Sands employers and the GPMC establishing “a joint sub-committee to investigate and discuss the competitiveness of the current general project maintenance, repair, and renovation industry in the province of Alberta.
- Bombardier Transportation and their union retaining a women’s advocate.
Are any of these all that innovative? Exactly.
Disorganize for innovation by reaching across formal structures within your organization to create partnerships and drive change. Look outside of the system-within-the-system.
Your colleagues and competitors have great ideas that aren’t benefiting your organization because formal structures usually aren’t adept at using ideas from everywhere to inform practice. They’re too top-heavy.
To do this effectively you’ll need a disciplined application of the third lesson:
Build Positive Relationships
Adaptability and innovation are at the heart of positive change, and you can’t lead people across burnt bridges. You’ll need people to help implement all the great opportunities you’re finding through journalling. You’ll expand those insights tenfold through conversations with people outside of your office, unit, department, division, and organization.
This is true whether you’re at the top, bottom, or middle of an organization. Your colleagues and competitors at all have valuable information. Our world is too complex to think we can lead, adapt, or innovate alone.
Find friends, colleagues, and competitors all have skills and knowledge that compliment your own. Build your network and you build your capacity for adaptability and innovation.
Have other ideas on what makes a good journal or how to bend a formal org-chart to your will? Drop us a comment, won’t you?