Innovation is more about attitude and culture than technology

The Economist recently (June 12th -18th) included an article written by Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway. Something that he said resonated with me – that is that ‘Technology is easy to develop, developing a new attitude, moving the culture from one mental model to another, that’s the difficulty’
This rang bells for me because I had just been reviewing assignments written by MBA students for the Creativity, Innovation and change programme where they were reflecting on how creative their organisations were. One of the aspects that regularly come up here is that the culture and climate are not conducive to creativity, and therefore innovation.
Ekvall, 1991, researched creative climates and came up with a set of dimensions which he determined enabled creativity in organisations.  These include idea time, freedom, and challenge.
These seem quite obvious, however on the other hand in my coaching and training work over the years it has been clear that these types of factors have been missing. Not only are organisations over stretched but it does seem that managers and leaders are afraid to allow people any individual time for reflection, learning and possible creation of ideas.
So what are leaders and organisations afraid of I wonder?

Working to ones strengths and the world cup

In following the England and French teams in the current round of world cup matches, several leadership issues seem to be very apparent. Leaders are required to bring out the best in their team – I would think that this is a given? Teresa Amabile, one of the writers referenced on the Creativity, Innovation and Change module of the Open University MBA, identifies six factors that result in creativity in the workplace: Challenge, freedom, resources, work-group features, supervisory encouragement and organisational support. The first of these is challenge. This should be about managers (leaders?) matching people with the right assignments to maximise their potential and keep them motivated.

When people play to their strengths then they ignite intrinsic motivation. So what of the stories that are coming out of both the French and England football camps that players have been ordered to play in ways, or in positions that do not match their strengths or even their competence?

Amabile asserts that creativity is killed when as so often happens the most eligible employee is matched with the most eligible (urgent and open) assignment, resulting often in failure.

This is also supported by the work on strengths psychology where playing to ones strengths is regarded as motivating and brings out the passion. Something that seems to be missing from these teams.

Another interesting and perhaps very damaging action is the England manager’s insistence on not announcing to the team who will be playing until 2 hours before a match. In industry we have for many years been focusing on building teams so that they can work together most effectively. This requires trust as much as anything and trust needs to be built and maintained. I am not a football expert and I do understand that players do need to be substitutable however it does seem that some of the basic premises on which good teams prove to work effectively and creatively are missing here.