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New & Improved White Paper Archive

Date: 2/10/2015

Title: Wisdom, Maturity, and the Innovation Imperative

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Wisdom, maturity, and the innovation imperative

“There is no such thing as a grown-up. Just growing ups, and stuck people. That’s it.”
— Bob Eckert

Any long–time reader of this newsletter or our blog and books knows that we constantly drive for better management of the gator brain (our codeword for managing your reactive immaturity). What we know — from our experience and the research — is that tools, techniques, processes and policies can only take you so far down the innovation skills pathway. We must strengthen emotional intelligence if we are to be able to interact with each other in such a way that we can learn and create well from our differences.

The fuel for the creative thinking that yields innovation is not our similarities, but our differences. Good social interaction and creative thinking skills allow productive and innovative ideas to build from differences of perspective and opinion. While innovation comes from differences, it takes maturity to play well with people who see the world differently, have different interests, and do not share your particular personality characteristics, preferences and/or style. It takes a desire to find the value in difference, rather than a habit of only seeing the downside of a difference.

Power & social systems

We believe that the most powerful organized force for change (for good or bad) in the world that humans have built is the system of commerce through which we exchange value and find ways to feed our families. We intend to leverage that power to make the world a better place for all of us. We recognize that at times the most influential global powers have been religions and governments, but we think that time has passed in most of the world and gradually passing in all of it. We make no judgment as to the relative good or bad of this change; we simply observe it to be true. So, if only for the sake of understanding our view, and the incredible opportunity that this change makes available for humanity, let’s at least assume that commerce is the lever by which we can do some very positive things for the world.

Here’s our logic:
  1. In order to continue to survive in a competitive commercial environment, we must innovate.
  2. In order to sustainably innovate, we must improve our maturity and wisdom as individuals. (see our last newsletter)
  3. As we do so, we become more able to tackle the larger problems that we face — even those outside of work.

Because of this, we believe the desire for innovation will help us learn how to be more productive with each other.†This is what we need in order to create a better future for our children.†Yes, it’s the competitive element that innovation has introduced to commerce that can take us to a better life, workplace, community and world. As evidence of this, we are as likely to get an e–mail from one of our program graduates that they have made / saved their company big bucks via what they’ve learned as we are to get an e–mail telling us how they finally had a productive conversation with their sullen teenager using the same methods.

“You will receive lessons. Every lesson repeats itself in various ways and forms until you get that lesson. Only then are you allowed to get to the next lesson.”

This statement appears on a list titled “rules for living” that we often hand out in our advanced innovation leadership programs. We can’t find the original attribution. Whoever wrote it was speaking to a truth that shows up in almost every cultural tradition. History repeats itself until we learn. Wouldn’t it be great if we were able to effectively pass something forward to the next generation other than our personal wealth or tax bill? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we put front and center the idea that the most important inheritance we could leave would be generational increases in wisdom? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, from a young age, most of society was engaged in a conversation designed to answer the question “What might be all of the ways we could improve our maturity as a species?” And that we could be having this conversation in the place where we spend the largest chunk of our day to day lives — at work.†In that context, you could reframe the question as, “What might be all the ways we could work together better?”†

We believe that the evolutionary pressures that exist in commerce might be just the pressure to energize that conversation.

The real bottom line

As you work to turn your organization’s attention to improvement of its innovation culture, as you work to build the systems, organizational structures and training processes that improve your company’s innovation quotient, you are also improving the world’s ability to effectively tackle the big issues that we have been too immature, narrow–minded and short–sighted to solve so far. We believe this is an innovation mission that ANY organization should be proud to throw themselves behind, even as they are working to strengthen their position in the market — their bottom line — via innovation. It is a great service to us all that you grow through innovation, because you create a competitive pressure for others that can only be resolved by increasing their innovation abilities...and hence their ability to think and work productively with others.

So get with it. Out–innovate others. Raise the bar for us all, and serve us all in the process of doing so.

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