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Innovation and Decision Making: An Ideal Pairing

innovation Jul 20, 2022

I’m sure you’ve heard that necessity is the mother of invention. We experienced it with the “necessity” arising from an unexpected pandemic. We learned new ways of adapting, many of which we unpacked in our Lessons from Leading Remote blog series. 

Now that the urgency of immediate change is waning, how do we integrate lessons learned into the adaptive style of leadership that is emerging as our regular rhythm?

Our leaders and our teams will continually need new ways to engage innovation in how we work, lead and serve our people. Our decision making must become more inclusive, adaptive and iterative if we are to stay ahead of the curve of change. 

Innovation and Decision Making

Our traditional efficiency-oriented way of making decisions by narrowing down the options and getting straight to action may be insufficient in the wake of crisis and change. If, however, we pair our way of making decisions with innovation we create a responsive, adaptive and agile process needed to future proof for the unexpected. We won’t need “necessity” to invent new things. It simply becomes a natural way we operate. So, how do we actually make this pairing?

Rather than a totally new process or yet another meeting, look to integrate innovation into what you are already doing. Add an opening question that expands thinking at the beginning of the meeting. On the way to a decision, take a pause with a reflective question that slows the pace to create space for innovative thought. Here are some additional things to consider:

Keep it Simple

The simplest solution is most likely the right one. Often we assume that the more complex solution is the better one. What if innovation is simple? What is the next right step? Then, the next? Then, the next? If you don’t have the resources for the big thing you think you need to do, then think smaller! Sometimes the simpler, faster, cheaper, easier solution is the best one.

Expand Thinking

Innovation paired with decision making is about diversity of thought and inviting a collective approach to collecting data, generating ideas, sharing feedback, along with learning. Sometimes the assumptions we make can lead us to a decision that doesn’t actually address the problem. Adding in some checkpoints in the decision making process to pause and expand thinking can actually save time and reinforce a sustainable decision.

Try An Experiment

Short term commitments like a time-bound experiment keeps the group open to new ideas and approaches with a continuous evaluation mindset. The team takes a stance of testing out what works and what doesn’t. I’ve worked with a few organizations who are moving toward quarterly goals rather than annual ones to evaluate earlier and be more responsive. Some are creating budgets that are more like a forecast with practices that make it easier to shift funds and take advantage of opportunities that emerge. 

"Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things." ~Theodore Levitt

In the next series of blogs we are going to dive into the process of innovative decision making where we invite innovation (ideate), expand the conversation (debate), make decisions (decide), iterate our experiments (experiment) and evaluate for success (assess).  The process is a cycle of continuous innovation, an ongoing process that builds on previous learning to stay ahead of the change curve.

Join The Conversation

What holds back innovative thinking on your team? How do you see that impacting your decisions? Comment below! Email me your observations and questions to further the conversation.







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