Leading Blog


« David Wiener’s 40 Rules for Business, Management and the Rest of Life | Leading Blog Main Page | Who Will Lead Us Tomorrow? »



11.05.18

Turning Observation into Innovation

On the Brink

E
VERYONE WANTS to be an innovator. Every organization wants to be innovative; it doesn’t matter if it’s a church, a for-profit or non-profit business, or a government agency. To not be innovative is to risk being left behind. But how many of us are truly innovative? What have we done that could be called really innovative in the last year?

To be innovative requires a risk tolerance that most people just don’t have. It requires skills that too few have developed. We make incremental changes to be sure, but innovation necessitates something more. Often we just are too close to the situation to see the opportunities. It’s why companies like Google and Intel have called upon corporate anthropologists to bring give them fresh perspectives on their own businesses.

Corporate anthropologists, like traditional anthropologists, explains Andi Simon in On the Brink, look “at a company as a new and unfamiliar culture” to arrive at fresh insights.

Corporate anthropologists “see things that are really happening out there in the field, not what business leaders think is going on. They look for the deeper meaning in the interactions that make up people’s lives and the objects they surround themselves with. They search for those cultural symbols that people live by but have a hard time telling you about. And then they use their findings to help companies rethink how, and why, they’re doing things.”

Andi Simon is a corporate anthropologist that wants to help you do just that—act like an anthropologist for your own organization (or life). Often on the brink of new heights, the challenge is to react appropriately to changing circumstances— “a challenge that requires seeing, feeling, and thinking in new ways.”

Simon says she is amazed at how often we miss what is right in front of us. As expressed in Russell Conwell’s 1890 classic, Acres of Diamonds, “many business leaders fail to recognize that they’re sitting on acres of diamonds of unmet needs or obvious future opportunities.” There are ways to figure out our customer’s pain points and gain insights from observing both the customer and the processes of a business that lead to meaningful innovation and growth.

The anthropologist’s toolkit consists of these four steps to help you change the way you see things; to find meaning in what people do or don’t do:

1. Conduct observational research. You need to go out and watch not only your customers but also your employees. Watch and record how they think and interact with your product or service. Find their pain points. “When companies cannot seem to figure out why they have stalled, customers’ pain points and headaches are often great places to start.” This is true for churches too. What questions are people asking that you aren’t answering?

2. Find out what’s coming in to you already. Users connect with you through call centers, emails, searches, your website, and networking events. What are they happy with, upset about or frustrated by? You’re looking for gaps. In the case of Centenary College, “we needed to experience the college as if we were students, to understand it as if we were their families, and to visualize it through the eyes of high school guidance counselors or a business’s human resource staff.”

3. Capture the stories. Listen. Hold listening and storytelling sessions. Records your observation with photos and videos.

4. Evaluate your culture and perhaps even change it. How does work get done in your organization? Does it fit with your strategy and goals? “As important as branding is, it is equally important that the culture is in sync with that message.”

These steps are pretty straightforward and perhaps obvious, but they require some skill to implement. Simon applies these steps to seven case studies to help you see how they work in practice. The case studies will help you to look at your organization differently.

* * *

Like us on Instagram and Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:19 AM
| Comments (0) | Creativity & Innovation



Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)






Copyright ©1998-2018 LeadershipNow / M2 Communications All Rights Reserved
All materials contained in LeadershipNow.com are protected by copyright and trademark laws and may not be used for any purpose whatsoever other than private, noncommercial viewing purposes. Derivative works and other unauthorized copying or use of stills, video footage, text or graphics is expressly prohibited. LeadershipNow is a trademark of M2 Communications.