Innovation & asking the right questions

In all of our organizations fostering innovation is an important goal. But how do you turn the innovation fawcett on? Somehow it seems so much easier to turn it off.

Of course, it's all about institutional culture. The way problems and solutions are framed. The way management/leadership/peer culture frames, encourages and rewards ideas.

Sometimes it just the way we ask questions about new ideas.

A nice articles from Tony Golsby-Smith at the Harvard Business Review blog site: Three Questions that Will Kill Innovation.

They're mostly aimed at commercial organizations but can easily be re-framed for non-commercial organization like universities or libraries.

First of all, how to ask innovation-discouraging questions.

  • What is the return on investment on this project?
  • Can you prove your case and back it up with hard data?
  • Are you meeting your milestones?

And now, how to ask essentially the same three questions but in a way to encourage innovation.

  • What hard and soft capabilities are you beginning to build by doing this? (ie. skills and techical infrastructure.)
  • What value are you creating for stakeholders?
  • What are you learning?

This is all fleshed out quite a bit more in the original post. It's well worth reading.

I also like the way Golsby-Smith ends his article:

What are the most toxic questions in your organization? The most energizing?


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Did you just ask me how to turn on Farrah Fawcett?

Sorry. This really is a very interesting post. I just had to make that comment.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 17 Mar 2011 #permalink