Right brain thinkers bring new ideas to team

April 20, 2014

Q I’ve always hired the best and brightest with the top expertise and track record. As a result, my high-performing team keeps producing successful but predictable solutions. What else should I be looking for in new hires to add innovation?

A: Innovators are also often well-trained experts in their field who are also curious nonconformists, open to new experiences.

Look for non-linear thinkers who thrive on complex puzzles.  They apply knowledge creatively and push the limits on conventional thinking by challenging underlying assumptions and the status quo. Their strong right brain function strives for unique solutions.

Innovators are often proactive, enthusiastic early adopters. They love novelty and are gifted at brainstorming, generating ideas and envisioning the possibilities at the front end of a project.  They are often better at spotting problems and opportunities rather than solving them. The more linear thinkers will be better at executing the plan.

Innovators are adaptive, resilient and have an entrepreneurial mindset. They value persistence, collaboration and creative discussion to test the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of their ideas.

Those who are flexible enough to include and incorporate others’ ideas are best for a team. They are committed to generating the best solution rather than their solution.

While innovators produce ingenious solutions, working with them requires additional time for the creative process before achieving deliverables. Innovation requires creativity, the ability to access the usefulness, and then implementing the idea for a successful solution.

This new team dynamic can be disorienting and uncomfortable for the existing members.  During this transition, facilitate the culture shift by supporting members to leverage their own unique strengths, include and optimize their different capabilities, and work cohesively to reach a common purpose.

These characteristics will round out your team.

Originally published in The Province April 13, 2014.

Set the tone for meetings

September 26, 2011

Q: My staff’s harsh criticisms of different viewpoints are preventing the sharing of innovative ideas in meetings. How can I create a more open exchange of dialogue?

A: Besides bringing in a neutral systems coach trained to resolve the team’s underlying conflict, role modelling by a leader is an effective way to achieve behavioural changes. The coaching skills of listening and asking curious questions would help break through the resistance.

Clear out your thoughts and agenda to focus attention on the speaker. If you are sorting and assessing the speaker’s message while they are speaking, you are NOT fully hearing them. You are filtering communication through assumptions and opinions. Listen beyond literal words, voice tone and their delivery. What is the underlying message they are trying to convey? What is their good intention beneath the words? What are they not saying?

Asking simple curious questions in a matter of fact manner will flush out their point of view. Seemingly obvious or dumb questions posed with sincere curiosity will encourage the speaker to disclose even more. Open ended questions that steer toward the positive in their viewpoint and begin with “what” will expand the conversation. For example: What is superior about this solution? What is the benefit? What would this afford us?

Avoid “why” questions that may make the speaker inadvertently feel interrogated or defensive. If the meeting becomes heated, neutralize it by curiously questioning the conflict – ensuring you are exhibiting judgment-free listening and dispassionate questioning. Your consistent follow through will demonstrate new meeting expectations promoting trust and safety so staff are motivated to contribute their ideas.

Originally published in The Province, September 25, 2011.