Don’t Be Afraid to Break Things

Two recent articles caught my eye, both dealing with a certain negative side of innovation: change management. David Burkus posted an article on 99U where he begins with the [rhetorical] question, “Have you ever debuted an exciting new idea to the world only to receive a lukewarm or even highly critical response?” The disturbing follow up to this question is that there is evidence that “we all possess an inherent bias against creativity” (emphasis mine). Although observation and experience should already have made me aware of this, it is still disappointing to consider. For many years I have chosen to believe that the average coworker wants to move the organization forward, and that the average boss or manager is interested in uncomfortable ideas that could have the same results. Unfortunately, many times ideas, mental horsepower and energy have fallen on deaf ears within the ranks of both groups. Mr. Burkus goes on to explain various reasons for the discomfort, then negative reactions to the new or the novel, which underscores my point regarding change management.

The other article is a post by Jeffrey Phillips where he discusses the risk associated with the fact that “there’s no innovation without experimentation.” This may not be as obvious to most people as it is to a systems thinker.  Mr. Phillips contrasts the Edison model with a culture in many corporations where “outside of research and development teams experimentation is a dangerous word.” This in my mind is where leadership and iconoclastic vision are a must. This by the way is not at all at odds with the rigor and discipline of hard, regular workloads. Yet this is not an easy task either. A creative systems thinker must get the job done while managing organizational imposed demands, while at the same time inspiring those around them to always ask why, move fast and break things (Zuckerberg quote), and NOT stop trying new things until they are told to.

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