How To Increase Innovation By Eliminating ‘Behavioral Waste’

Where does your organization fall on the “Mind Fit” test?

(Mind Fit Map courtesy of Mind Fit)

Recently I met a business growth expert in the UK whose philosophy meshes well with my own. Neville Gaunt is the CEO of Mind Fit, which provides business and management coaching to organizations and entrepreneurs. What does it mean to be “mind fit?” As one of its foundational tenets, Mind Fit tests entrepreneurs and executives at all levels for their mental attitudes, which fall into three general points of focus:

  • The Can-Do attitude (powerful and in control) — the upper right quadrant
  • The Can’t-Do attitude (helpless and out of control), and
  • The Won’t-Do attitude (Defensive, and over control)

Nearly every behavioral or cultural issue within a company, such as conflict, avoidance, aggressive or passive aggressive behavior, is the result of dysfunctional behavior that can be identified and improved through attention to where people’s attitudes and thinking fall on the Mind Fit map.

The primary approach to addressing poor “mind fitness” is training and exercise. Thankfully, Gaunt’s team provides mechanisms in a manner that encourages people to willingly become engaged, motivated and energized to succeed in the same way a physically fit body is bursting with energy and delights in addressing movement and challenge. Conversely, organizations improve dramatically when we can learn to eliminate what Gaunt and his team call “behavioral waste.”

For example, picture the leader who is habitually 15 minutes late to every meeting. On the face of the situation, the 15 minutes of waste is compounding by the 15 minutes also wasted by each of the individuals in the room. For 12 people, this is bad enough — 3 hours of wasted time per week, equating to 300 hours per year or 7 ½ weeks.

But the problem is even bigger than this as the leader’s behavior triggers a domino reaction in others. Pretty soon everyone else, realizing the leader will arrive 15 minutes late, arrives 15 minutes late themselves. The leader, recognizing people won’t be ready for action when he arrives, begins to show up 5 minutes later still. People’s attention and commitment to the purpose of the meeting now progressively drifts. Energy and commitment suffer. Now the organization is not only subject to poor mind fitness, but it is also increasingly susceptible to behavioral waste.

In the recently released eBook, Recycling Behavioural Waste, Mind Fit authors Graham Williams and Victor Newman note, “Behavioral waste is parasitic. The Parkinson’s Law that says work expands to fill the available time is only partly correct. In reality it is unchecked Behavioral Waste that expands to cripple meaningful purpose.” In addition to perpetual lateness, other forms of behavioral waste include issues such as:

  • Ignoring and failing to address bullying behaviors
  • Allowing conflicts to grow and fester
  • Poor training that fails to produce and measure results
  • Obsolete working methods
  • Cynical attitudes or unwillingness to consider feedback
  • Overloading of capable individuals, considered easier to work with, rather than supporting or dealing with the issues lower performing individuals face

As individuals consider the Mind Fit map, it becomes easier to recognize the source of “unfit” attitudes that propel bad behaviors. For example, Can-Do people are eager to expand and grow, and perpetually deliver. Strong organizations are able to predominantly hire, train and maintain individuals that fall into this camp, allowing the company to prosper and grow.

Meanwhile, Can’t-Do people ignore and avoid. They feel helpless. They don’t believe their feedback is welcome or that leaders will support them. In one case, for example, a young man who perpetually had no response to his pitches was finally “caught” when a manager stepped in to look at the pitch and see if he could advise. It turned out the fellow had long ago quit bothering to make the pitches at all, figuring “nobody’s going to respond to me anyway, so what I’m doing with my time doesn’t really matter.” Yet he was astonished and felt unfairly treated when his Can’t-Do attitude eventually resulted in the loss of his job.

Ironically the fellow’s bid to collect unemployment pay was granted by Workforce Services on the basis that he was “incapable of performing the job he was hired for,” and in a very real sense, the decision, though seemingly tragic, was right. With his mind “unfit,” he really was incapable of rising to the challenge of doing his job.

Even more difficult than the apathetic and unconfident Can’t-Do’s are the unmovable Won’t-Do’s who resist every idea or suggestion of change. They put up obstacles, place blame, find excuses or even passive aggressively retaliate against anybody trying to “tell me what to do” by proposing an innovation or change. Worst of all, the attitude of Won’t-Do’s is contagious, destroying engagement and culture and dragging backwards on company growth.

The answers, of course, are training (and particularly training that works with the current state of mind fitness to model ideal exercises for maximum growth). Training requires the repetition of new habits, the creation of positive social support and example, and the modeling by leaders of the kind of Can-Do behavior that brings out the best in others and compels everyone in an organization or group to improve.

A healthy organizational body requires exercise and, like physical exercise, the process of growth requires new habits and thinking. As Neville Gaunt is fond of frequently repeating, the power for personal and business growth is, very literally, “all in your mind.”

At just 85 pages, Recycling Behavioural Waste is a quick read and it doesn’t waste any time getting right to the heart of things with valuable information. Better still, the book is free, and is available here.

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