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!

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.