Monday, June 29, 2009

Open or Closed

Talking about this subject reminds me of Ecclesiastes. But it is true, there is a time to be open and a time to be closed. What do I mean by that?

One of the greatest lessons in innovation is this: knowing when to be open to new ideas and knowing when to stop soft thinking and drive the idea into reality.

This is a very hard lesson. So many times we cannot distinguish between the creative time (soft thinking) and the implementation time (hard thinking). This means that we are either always in development or we never bother to brainstorm and rush right into roll out. Both leave our project missing so much of the innovation that it could have had.

Why does this happen?
1. We do not clearly set perameters and expectations when we start a project.
2. We are not confident in our innovation and leave it open for constant revision
3. We don't value input from others so we move straight into implementing our idea
4. We are behind schedule and cannot afford to build in the time to innovate

Do these sound familiar? They should. I can't think of a ministry that doesn't struggle with this. And if that weren't hard enough let me through in another twist. Sometimes after you have done your brainstorming, come up with a plan and are in rollout, you have to open up your mind again because something has changed.

So how do you decide when to open your mind to new possibilities and when to close it and get the job done?
1. Create an environment where innovation is celebrated and decisions are honored.
2. Always be willing to entertain new ideas but keep them insulated from items already being rolled out unless they are game changers.
3. Manage expectations daily so that people know what is open for innovation and what must be closed for implementation.
4. Even while you are rolling out today's idea, be promoting and developing people's ideas for tomorrow

As you can see, it isn't black and white. Things are in constant states of opening up for innovation or closing down for implementation. But your ability to facilitate those processes will determine your success.


Anonymous said...

You are right that inovation and implementation often have to exist side-by-side. But every effective change has to be "frozen" as the new status quo at some point. It may not be frozen for long (weeks or months), but there has to be a "mission accomplished" point (even though that phrase suffered badly under "W"). Most of the failures at innovation that I observe come from failure to define the objective of the change, and to then recognize when it is achieved.

Jon and Mindy Hirst said...

Thanks for this thought. You are exactly right. There has to be a moment when you can be finished, even when you know that the very next moment means you will start up another phase of the project. Knowing when to be open and when to be closed is key!