The simple part of innovation is garnishing ideas, ideas are plentiful and low in cost. The hard part is selecting the idea that has the greatest potential of succeeding.
Even harder still is killing the idea.
Imagine this scenario; an innovation has started and everyone loves it. A new team has been put together and they are riding the new idea around the company like a show pony. It’s the best idea that the company has ever had. All of a sudden, a new idea comes to town. Who kills the current show pony? How is the team now managed? With these innovation cycles, we find that the strongest managers have no problem forming groups, helping them to achieve high performance and dismantling them, even though the desired output hasn’t been achieved.
The best leaders are able to explain this challenge to those who have been involved in the groups and bring them along to the next innovation. It is therefore crucial that innovation cycles don’t turn into a series of random good ideas.
Random good ideas are the most effective way to kill the direction of a strategy. They can create inactivity as their value is pondered and direction is reevaluated.
As counterintuitive as this may sound, good ideas at the wrong time are a bad thing. In 1965 Bruce Tuckman created the Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing model of group development. Tuckman maintained that these phases are all necessary and inevitable in order for the team to grow, to face up to challenges, to tackle problems, to find solutions, to plan work, and to deliver results.
The forming refers to the creation of teams. Storming is the period of time when all new ideas are collected and evaluated. Norming is the period of creating new processes around the ideas and performing is where we get good at them.
A constant stream of good ideas can keep a group in the Storming phase. This reduces the momentum and direction of a strategy and prevents teams from ever becoming high performers.
Good ideas are necessary and expected in high performing businesses. The skill is in not in preventing good ideas, it’s in knowing what to do with them once they arise. If they enhance the strategy and create extra momentum and a truer direction, then take them on. If they cause Storming when the team has moved on to Performing, park them. Knowing the difference is the job of a leader.
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