There is no place for this mindset or behavior in organizations that foster innovation. Quite the contrary – it’s time to start embracing the “why”. It’s time to ask more questions and pause to consider the limitless options.
Encourage your team to brainstorm “why”, by posing this question:
“In order for that to be true, what else would need to be true?”
For example, if your market research found your primary market to be different than your true buying demographic—ask why.
A few possible reasons include:
- The market research is dated.
- The sample group was too small.
- The researched region doesn’t reflect your demographic as a whole.
If outcome #3 is the area of conflict, it may be time to implement regional research and marketing.
Even when you are certain of an answer, play the Devil’s advocate by asking questions that challenge your certainty—which can lead to innovation.
Expect to Fail
Those who remain curious continue to experiment. Failure is inevitable when experimenting. However, you can take a strategic approach. This is achieved by leveraging data and technology, and utilizing relevant creative constraints.
Creative constraints encourage curiosity and innovation. Just be mindful that there is a fine line between creative constraints that drive innovation and constraints that limit innovation.
Non-limiting constraints include factors such as:
- Required materials
- Availability of materials
- Technical specifications
- Current technology
- Laws of physics
Also, put a system in place to gather data and analyze what you learn from each failed attempt. If you walk away with applicable knowledge, it’s not really a failure.
Explore in Every Area
In addition to experimentation, continue to explore new things in every area of your life. Anything new will do!
Any new personal experience, skill, hobby, or adventure has the potential to open your mind. Exploration can even help you develop skills that are transferable at work.
For example, if you’ve ever taken a class geared toward improved professional communication, it may have improved your personal communication too. Or a class geared toward professional time management, likely improved your personal time management skills.
On the flip side, taking an improv class for fun may have the positive ripple effect of expanding your creativity and innovation at work. Also, boosting public speaking confidence, something that causes 70% of adults to have at least some fear and anxiety.
Sometimes exploration is unexpected. You may be introduced to a new idea or concept after watching a documentary, movie, or TV show on a topic that is completely unrelated to your industry. Or after processing a conversation with the person seated next to you on an airplane. Or even after chatting with a child.
Whatever the source, the insights can be eye-opening.
Let Go of “Right” and “Wrong”
From a young age we are taught that there is a “right” way to do things and a “wrong” way. In reality, there are multiple ways to achieve any organizational objective.
Case in point, the difference between how many parents were taught long division, and how their children are taught long division. Even if their answer is correct, points are deducted if children utilize the “wrong” calculation method. There’s no way around this for your children, but the same approach isn’t necessary in business.
Yes, you need to implement strategies, but utilize processes that are agile—such as Scrum. As long as safety is maintained and the risk is properly assessed, empower your team to explore.
As a leader, your team looks to you for guidance, but not necessarily for step-by-step instruction. In other words, don’t let the ego-driven need to be “right” get in the way of curiosity.
Test and Refine
We live in a technology-driven world where almost everything is constantly evolving. While you may not need to reinvent the wheel, you should be testing and refining it.