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Innovation: Giving Voice to More Expansive Ideas

innovation Aug 03, 2022

How do we as leaders go beyond simply generating more ideas and move towards giving voice to a broad range of ideas? It’s easy to inadvertently stunt the ideating process. People can start debating the worthiness of one idea or another too early in the conversation. Stronger voices that are quick to speak up can carry a greater influence in the group and the slower or quieter voices are missed. 

The uncontained energy or momentum of the room can start spinning the cycle of innovation faster into decision making without surfacing the full-range of ideas. Without ensuring that a diversity of voices have been heard, you run the risk of missing out on ideas that might be more impactful or more sustainable. 

Innovation isn’t reserved for a select group of players or only one team. Instead, it works best when different players are engaged throughout the innovation to decision making cycle.

Getting everyone involved in innovation, includes asking a few questions throughout the innovation to decision-making cycle. Let’s explore a few of those questions:

Who else do we need to hear?

Look at the representation in the group of people generating ideas. Include people from different perspectives in the organization. Think of those people who will either directly or indirectly benefit from the idea and how they can add to the ideating conversation. Consider including information from alternative sources - i.e. experiences of similar organizations, best practices, or industry research. The goal is to draw out divergent ideas from differing perspectives, not just more ideas.

"A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone." ~ Sundar Pichai

How can we listen?

Consider how to draw out all the voices >> the major voices, minor voices, and those who typically don’t speak at all. It’s easy to tune into the major voices in such a way that they drown out others. A few ideas to bring more balance:

  • Solicit anonymous ideas to the large group through a facilitator serving as a gateway
  • Utilize Post-it notes or other non-verbal ways to solicit ideas
  • Provide adequate time to draw out more of the minor voices
  • Invite those who haven't shared their thoughts yet to do so without putting them on the “hot seat” 
  • Offer multiple ways to continually share ideas beyond group sessions or meetings

How do we respond?

Achieving inclusion isn’t just a seat at the table. That doesn’t guarantee a voice. 

As a facilitator of innovation, your role is to surface a range of ideas. To minimize the complexity that often accompanies that process, be clear on what you are asking for now – ideas, not decisions. Compliment your invitation to share ideas by nurturing a culture of trust where quieter voices are valued and communication processes are clear. 

What’s next?

This kind of ideating yields a quantity of ideas along with improving their quality by drawing from different sources and in different ways. By drawing from different sources and in different ways this kind of ideating yields a quantity of ideas 

Once you’ve spent this time generating a robust suite of ideas, you might then be tempted to move into debating the merits of an idea and deciding which one is best. Before you decide, let’s talk about how you can notice patterns and connect the dots between similar or related ideas from the list you created. This process will help you to crystallize the group's thinking and lead to additional insights. 

As you reflect on what we have talked about so far, how has giving voice to diverse ideas influenced coming up with better ideas in the end? Comment below.







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