How should innovators not behave?

A couple of weeks ago we asked how do innovators behave? We received some good responses and some suggested reading material, but we’re keen to hear from more people, so we thought we’d look at this from a different angle.

How should innovators not behave? How do leaders who inhibit innovation behave?

If you want people to support something, it’s important to focus on the positive behaviours that you want to see, not those that detract or inhibit.

However, if we want to articulate just what those positive behaviours are, maybe we need to be clear first about the behaviours that we don’t want to inadvertently encourage.

Are there behaviours from senior people that you have found have worked against innovation?

Are there behaviours that you’ve demonstrated that have worked against you when trying to do something innovative?

A behaviour that I have been guilty of is not always giving others time and space to respond to a new idea. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in an idea and want to get moving on it straight away. However if the idea is new, and especially for relevant decision makers, people may need time to get their head around it, to work out what they think, and whether they can see it working or not. Pushing for a response too quickly can simply push people into a default position against an idea.

Of course, on the flip side, I’ve had interactions with decision makers who haven’t given clear feedback about why they are against an idea. Or who have indicated support on the surface but then acted in a way that indicated their support was … less than fulsome.

What about you? What are the behaviours that you have found can harm your efforts at innovation (both by yourself and from other people/leaders)?

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  1. I think that if you have responsibility for getting an idea off the ground the worst thing you can do is over-promise and under deliver. It’s far better to under-promise and over deliver that way you pick up engagement and support for what you are trying to achieve. Another thing is that new ideas are very fragile things and you need to keep a very open mind about their ultimate potential. A raised eyebrow or a sceptical look can kill an idea before it gets any oxygen.

  2. Thanks all for those comments, some great points.

  3. Rejecting an idea summarily on the basis of nothing more than “this is the way it’s done / has always been” without even taking the time to consider the possible outcomes is a major innovation repellent. It completely invalidates the person’s contribution, stifles diversity, disregards the value of deliberation and fails to acknowledge that there is always room for improvement.

  4. I find it sad that this is such a rich field to mine, based on personal experiences:
    – setting up an innovation to fail. Accepting the idea, and then not giving it the people, time and resources to advance at a reasonable speed. It is very easy for an innovation to wither when no-one cultivates it.
    – responding much later to ideas for innovation. “They keep asking for innovative ideas but I never hear anything back”
    – telling people “That is not core business”. As though a business can operate with only a core and nothing around it (my often used apple metaphor)
    – all the negatives: we tried that and it did not work; costs too much; our system doesn’t support that; it isn’t broken, so why are you trying to change it? I love Phil McKinney’s ‘corporate antibodies’ that smother innovation

  5. I think that the biggest mistake in innovation is assuming that no one else has ever had the same problem as us. And because we don’t want other people to know about our problems, we keep it to ourselves – therefore limiting the potential assistance we could have received from other agencies who more than likely HAVE experienced/are experiencing that exact same issue.
    In all the different positions I’ve worked in everyone is ‘unique’, apparently. Except they’re not unique. We might run different programmes across agencies but programme management is still programme management.
    We need to be focusing on finding commonalities and working on those together, rather than keeping all our secrets locked away

  6. The most annoying thing that a person can do when someone has an idea is for them to say to that person that “It sounds like a good idea but I think there’s a better way to do that”. In hijacking someone’s idea it devalues that person which results in diseangement. When a new idea is presented those listening should be careful in how they respond. Using coaching techniques to identify the positives and negatives is essential in acknowledging an idea but at the sime time giving opportunity for that person with the idea to identify the benefits and positives.