Innovating Is Learning

I experienced a situation in a consulting engagement once that taught an interesting lesson. At first, I thought it was about life at work, but soon I realized it was really just about life. The lesson was that personal improvement and creative contributions only result following mistakes, failures, and learning. You have to experiment, fall short, learn, and try again. Improvement is a process!

Managers say they want change, improvement, creativity, and innovation. They are full of it. What they really want is mistake-free and pain-free improvement. Outside of work, people do the same thing. They say they want to get in shape or find a new job, and then one little setback stops them in their tracks. They feel embarrassed and angry and quit. The trick is to weather the storm and learn so you’re less likely to screw up again. Setbacks are supposed to be the very things that help you avoid future mistakes.

At a consulting engagement several years ago, this principle came to life in a hilarious manner. I was hired as a coach for a manufacturing company in the Midwest. They had about one hundred million in revenue and growing. The industrial widgets they made were a key component in the manufacturing processes of many other manufacturers in several industries. Their widgets were considered best in class, tops in the industry.

The trick is to weather the storm and learn so you’re less likely to screw up again. Setbacks are supposed to be the very things that help you avoid future mistakes.

My first day with them started in the president’s office. He gave me his take on the company, the team, what needed to change, and so on. He wanted his team to speak up, show more initiative, and create needed change. He claimed his employees would give innovation lip service when chatting with him, but the behaviors were not there. He said he asked for new ideas all the time but got nothing.

Eventually, he took me to a large conference room. Inside, his top team of eleven managers waited for us around a large table.

What followed was horribly boring. They told me about their areas of responsibility, how long they had been with the firm, and so on. Boring! The worst part was watching their body language. It quickly became apparent that these men all respected and revered the president. Unfortunately, the behavioral reaction to reverence looks terribly similar to the behavioral reaction to fear.

After about thirty minutes, I suggested to the president that it might be useful if he left me alone with the team for a while. He looked at me funny but agreed and left.

Want to know what happened next?? It turns out this is an exclusive excerpt from Dr. Dewett’s upcoming book! Jump over to Todd’s full story HERE. You won’t want to miss this one!

 

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Dr. Dewett is an author, professional speaker, recovering management professor, and Harley Davidson nut. His job is to build better leaders and teams. He is the author of The Little Black Book of Leadership. His unique brand of energetic leadership knowledge has resulted in quotes in the New York Times, BusinessWeek, Forbes, CNN, Investors Business Daily, USA Today, and hundreds of other outlets. After beginning his career with Andersen Consulting and Ernst & Young, he has since spoken to and advised thousands of professionals around the world. Get to know Todd by visiting his home online at drdewett.com, his popular courses at Lynda.com, and his TEDx talk on YouTube.

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