Organizational Innovation: It Starts With You

As an Innovation Design consultancy, we spend a lot of time at The Moment working with organizations to set up their teams for sustained innovation work, what kinds of tools they might use to solve complex challenges and how to put customers at the heart of the work that they’re doing. Yet, if we dig into how the “magic” happens when we see teams really start to shift their culture, we realize that the magic is in individuals shifting their view of the world to understand that there is a different, better way to do work than they’re doing today. Yet, actively trying to make change can trigger fear responses that get in the way of change.

So, if the “magic” lies in people undergoing a change process which then radiates out to an organization, what is the “magic” in helping people change how they think? It is a question that Dave Gray explores in his latest book, Liminal Thinking. “Liminal”, or “threshold” describes a state where one overcomes our natural tendencies to reinforce existing beliefs and actively seek ways of disrupting our mental models in order to see new ways of being in the world. It is this practice of questioning and exploring that is essential to developing an innovation practice, because without this way of being we won’t see new possibility. And isn’t that what innovation is all about?

Our entire team has been working actively with one of Dave’s colleagues, Mike Parker, to develop this practice. Mike’s focus is the relationship between neuroscience and personal leadership. His practice involves working with individuals at a subconscious level to calm the part of the brain that is driven by fear and stress in order for the higher order brain functions to be more engaged in restructuring information and new possibilities. (Note: For more on this topic, please read Mike’s Medium post that goes into this with much more detail.)

From Mike Parker’s, illustrated by Dave Gray

What does working with Mike actually look like? It’s pretty simple, actually. Each individual on our team books one hour per week over Skype. We talk about goals or challenges we want to overcome, articulate what a desired future state might look like and then go through a guided meditation/visualization exercise that works to more deeply embed our desired future state into our consciousness, such that our desired behaviour becomes “the way we do things”. It’s a very subtle, yet effective, method of shifting behaviour, opening up new possibility and developing leadership skills.

Does it work? Well, I wrote this article, so I’d say “yes”. One of my stated goals in working with Mike and Liminal Thinking was to develop the practice of writing and more deeply engaging with the community of innovation practitioners to explore these topics and themes. I long felt that it has been hard to find the time and space to do that but felt it was necessary for both personal and professional growth. Working to change this belief, and subsequent behaviours, has been one goal of mine working with Mike and the mere existence of this article is evidence of change!

Bringing this back to the topic of team innovation, there are many ways to achieve success, and maybe the idea of going through a meditation session sounds really weird to you, and that’s OK. We kinda dig that stuff at The Moment, but we know it’s not for everyone. In the Liminal Thinking book there are guiding principles and practices that can be lived in myriad ways, both individually and as part of a team’s Simple Rules. For those who are driving innovation efforts within an organization, having a practice that intentionally challenges your beliefs and helping others do the same is a core skill in setting yourself up for long term success.

For more info on how to set up teams for long term innovation success, click here to request a copy of The Moment guide “Setting Up Your Innovation Teams For Success.