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Innovation and the Experimental Mindset
When youíre watching a toddler learn to walk and she falls, you donít wonder if she should quit trying to walk. Instead you know she is on a learning curve. Innovation requires experimentation. And experimentation requires a mindset focused more on learning than on getting it right.
Key elements of that mindset?
-- When something doesnít come out the way you planned, itís not a failure; itís an opportunity to learn what doesnít work. Just like that toddler learning to walk.
-- Focus on relationships as a context for learning. If others are involved in the experiment in some way, make a connection with them. When we feel connected to someone, we are less likely to punish a ďmistakeĒ and more likely to support the learning.
-- Think about a margin for error. If youíre changing a process, be sure you can revert back to the old process if necessary. That way you can feel free to try things that might not work. Although some advocate that you burn the ships when you land so there is no turning back, in many cases you can take more risks if you leave yourself a way back.
What is the fastest way to kill experimentation? Develop a mentality that it's more important to blame someone for a problem than it is to learn from the problem. That will ensure that everyone spends a lot of time spent making themselves look good and distancing themselves from problems. When those are the priorities, experimentation, learning and innovation will die off pretty quickly.
On the other hand, adopting the key elements above will help keep an experimental mindset alive in your organization. That can help you and your organization be more innovative every day and it makes work more fun!
About the Author: Dr. Linda Ford is an expert on corporate culture - that 800 Pound Gorilla that does whatever it wants to in your organization. She is a consultant, speaker, and author helping organizations tame their Gorilla. For free resources to help you tame your Gorilla, visit http://TameTheGorilla.com.