Collective genius

By Linda HillGreg BrandeauEmily Truelove, and  Kent Lineback via hbr.org   Article

“Innovation usually emerges when diverse people collaborate to generate a wide-ranging portfolio of ideas, which they then refine and even evolve into new ideas through give-and-take and often-heated debates. Thus collaboration should involve passionate disagreement. Yet the friction of clashing ideas may be hard to bear. It can create tension and stress—particularly in groups of talented, energetic individuals who may feel as if there are “too many cooks in the kitchen.” Often organizations try to discourage or minimize differences, but that only stifles the free flow of ideas and rich discussion that innovation needs. Leaders must manage this tension to create an environment supportive enough that people are willing to share their genius, but confrontational enough to improve ideas and spark new thinking.

Innovation also requires trial and error. Innovative groups act rather than plan their way forward, and solutions emerge that are usually different from anything anyone anticipated. Most organizations and the people in them prefer to move systematically toward a desired outcome. They set a goal, make a plan, assign responsibilities, work through the steps, and track progress until the goal is achieved. Isn’t that approach just good management? Not when it comes to innovation. Leaders of innovation create environments that strike the right balance between the need for improvisation and the realities of performance.

Finally, creating something novel and useful involves moving beyond either-or thinking to both-and thinking. But this also can be challenging. All too often, leaders and their groups solve problems through domination or compromise, resulting in less-than-inventive solutions. Innovation requires integrating ideas—combining option A and option B, even if they once seemed mutually exclusive—to create a new and better option. It also requires that leaders be patient enough to let great ideas from people in all parts of the organization develop. At the same time, they must ensure that a sense of urgency and clear parameters allow integrative decision making to actually occur.”

 

 

 

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