Monday, October 14, 2013

Put a Little Air in the Balloon

I heard the following simple but powerful little lesson from a Fortune 500 executive last week:

As a leader, if you want to create a culture of innovation, you need to create an environment where all employees feel encouraged to bring new ideas forward.
That’s easier said than done.

Instead, here’s what usually happens when someone comes up with a new idea....

Imagine that new idea as a balloon, about half full of air. When someone presents that balloon in a meeting, what’s the first thing we usually reach for?

Pins in the form of statements or hard-to-answer questions like “that won’t work here”, “we already tried that”, “it’s too expensive”, “that’s too farfetched”, “yeah, but…”, “did you do a 3 year rate of return analysis?”, and other balloon-popping reactions.
Pretty soon that balloon is leaking air, and it spins around and crashes to the ground or just blows up with one loud pop.

Instead, what if every leader viewed their role as “adding air to the balloons”?

Instead of pulling out our pins in the form of “yeah buts”, we add air to the idea in the form of “yes, ands”, and “what ifs”?
Instead of immediately rushing to assessment and judgment, we pause to consider the possibilities?

Sure, at the end of the day, the balloon still might pop, but at least we’ve given it a chance to get off the ground for everyone to see and consider it.
Leaders who want to encourage innovation are always trying to put “air in the balloons”. Give it a try.


David White said...

I've just stumbled upon your blog and found the articles very interesting, especially this one.
Thanks so much for the great inspiration, I'll definitely come back often. Kudos! :)

Dan McCarthy said...

David -