As you and your leadership team look at planning the calendar of events for the year, you are facing tough decisions about who will be required to attend which meetings and events in person...where, when...and why??!!

It's better when we're together!

You know that some events, meetings, and milestones would be so much better, more effective, more meaningful with people gathered together in person.

It's a lot of pressure, a lot of responsibility, with very few clear guidelines and no reliable precedent.

I feel the weight with which my clients are carrying these decisions, and the divisiveness among different stakeholder groups...people are pushing back, resisting whether they really need to be there. Some factions of leaders are insisting they do.

The stakes are high, the risks are real.  

You want to be seen as fair, concerned, caring, leading well.

There is no "right" answer. Ugh!!! 

You're trying to get to the best decisions you can with available information, yet the algorithm is just too complex to analyze all of the potential scenarios and variables and implications and backlash and...

So what do you do? How do you face these emergent challenges? How do you decide? How do you show up and lead in these high-stakes situations?

Along came Copernicus...

For centuries, humans believed the Sun revolved around the Earth. That orientation guided everything...including assumptions and expectations that people didn't even realize could be any other way.

Many leaders I see are conditioned to put their intellect, their reasoning, their mind at the center of their universe. It's the way business has (mostly) been run for the past many decades.

You probably know, or sense, that these decisions, in these times, can't be resolved through analysis alone. You need a new way of thinking, and feeling, about the challenges.

When crisis strikes...

Johnson & Johnson's CEO James Burke faced life and death decisions in 1982 when Tylenol capsules laced with cyanide killed seven people in Chicago. J&J's credo, outlining their values, and his own sense of the right thing to do, guided him to put people first and spend $100 million to recall 31 million bottles.

Leading the innovation of tamper-proof packaging in the industry, they relaunched the product just two months after the recall. These decisions restored their market share (which had dropped by 80%) by the middle of 1983.

Burke later said, "Trust embodies almost everything you can strive for that will help you to succeed." He made decisions that built trust.

As the pandemic rages, with rampant fear in its wake, the physical and psychological safety of your people is essential.

How do you care for them and their needs, while making decisions about in-person meetings and events, in a way that builds trust?

Let your heart guide you...

If you're one of the countless rational leaders, you may not see that the heart is an untapped source of guidance. Or you may get it but not have much experience going there.

What's unfamiliar can seem scary. So you might want to practice using this simple exercise with a low-stakes situation first.

It's best if you can find a quiet space to be alone for at least a few minutes. But don't wait...try this now if you can.

1. Bring your attention to your body. Notice any physical sensations.

For example, as I close my eyes right now and notice what's going on in my body, there's a pain in my left shoulder/neck that settled in overnight that's really obvious when I turn or tilt my head to the right. I can feel the heat of the sun through the window even though the temperature is maybe 4 degrees right now in Chicago.

2. Let your body breathe naturally and see if you notice any relief or calming just from being quiet and focused inside.

Notice any thoughts that may be distracting you. If they persist, take a minute to make a quick note so you won't forget to address it later. This can allow you to focus more clearly.

3. It can be helpful to bow your head toward your heart. I find that I do this reflexively now... It's like acknowledging a sort of deference of the mind to the heart. And it's okay if that's not comfortable for you.

4. Bring your current challenge to can focus on one particular decision to be made for an upcoming meeting or event, or you can open up to the broader or less fraught issues you're facing.

5. Ask your heart questions as if you're in a conversation. One way to practice opening to guidance your heart may offer you is to ask an open-ended question...

6. Listen to your heart... You may hear things that are to call someone you hadn't thought of for advice. Or you may think of one of your people and their particular struggles through the pandemic and the potential impact of this decision on may be moved to send them an email. You might choose to revisit that tense conversation with one of your kids.

As you face these complex challenges about in-person meetings and events, consider making that Copernican-like shift from centering your mind to centering your heart. As you get quiet and breathe, bowing to your heart, ask questions about the issues you're facing, and...listen.


Collaborative teams get more done and have more fun, so how do we take the “Dys-” out of Cross-functional teams?

From startups to the Fortune 500, the first factor for selecting team members is almost always functional expertise. Makes sense…that’s why they’re cross-functional teams. The problem is when that’s the only thing considered.

Let’s look at three key “intelligences” for high-performing teams.

  1. Cognitive Intelligence includes IQ, functional expertise, Experience, Knowledge, Skills. It’s what we’ve learned, what we know, it’s our Thinking. This includes Perspective-taking, Reasoning abilities, Judgment. Super important….first step.
  1. Affective Intelligence is our Feeling. It includes Emotional Intelligence (Self-awareness and Self-management, Empathy and Relationship management) as well as our Values, Purpose, Preferences, Attitudes and Desires. What do we Care about, what has Meaning for us and our customers? What Impact will our work deliver? Why does what we do Matter? A critically important factor that many companies are increasingly using to ensure fit with their culture.
  1. Instinctive Intelligence is our Doing. It’s how we take Action in creative problem solving. This is the least understood aspect of human beings so it’s often an undiagnosed…or misdiagnosed…source of conflict and inertia on teams. And also the greatest opportunity to improve collaboration and productivity!

Whether you use a process based on the principles of Lean or Design Thinking or Stage-gate, when it comes to project teams, especially product development and innovation teams, there are four critical outcomes needed to move through the creative problem solving process. We need Insights, Ideas, Implementation and Impact…and HOW we take action to DO these things is based on Instinctive Intelligence and determines our Action-based Strengths.

Let’s look at what happens in the front-end of innovation. When we’re discovering insights about customers and the market, we need to have a person (or people) on our teams who have the instinctive energy to gather lots of information. To dig and explore, to get specific, to see the nuances in the information.

If no one on the team has this instinctive drive, then we can miss critical information. We move too fast through this stage and don’t understand what customers and the market really need. We don’t have the necessary understanding of the critical market-driving insights needed for decision-making throughout the rest of the process.

If everyone has this instinctive drive then we experience inertia, we get stuck, we can’t move forward, we stall, we…the unspoken mantra always seems to be “we’re gonna need more information!”

Functional groups often have similar strengths in one or more stages of the innovation process…they have similar patterns in creative problem solving and communication…which can be the underlying source of misunderstanding across groups resulting in silos.

An R&D group with lots of engineers is likely to instinctively gather lots of information. Marketing (and Entrepreneurs!) may have seemingly unending energy for Dreaming Ideas with the unspoken mantra: “I love possibilities…and rainbows and unicorns.” Operations, concerned with Designing Implementation may seem to have the unspoken (sometimes spoken) mantra: “we’re gonna need a plan, Now” (often before the idea is known).

The irony is that our action-based strengths are also the source of our blind spots. We need people with differing strengths to enhance productivity and effectiveness. Yet those differences can be the source of tensions that arise when we don’t understand the underlying dynamics of instinctive intelligence.

What’s the mantra you most often sense on your teams? Where are your teams getting stuck? Where are they missing clarity on the key outcomes needed to deliver impact? Where are you experiencing conflict?

Awareness is the first step…


Logo credit: AIGA Design For Good logo (head, heart, hands) created by Michael Nÿkamp and Jody Williams design.

Michael Nÿkamp:

Jody Williams:

New Year! New Goals! Same Challenges!!??!

In a 2015 survey by BPI Network, top global executives reported the following obstacles holding back innovation in their organizations: Fear of failure: 42%. Politics and silos: 37%. Resistance to change: 31%. Lack of CEO/Board commitment: 25%. Lack of innovation leadership and empowerment: 24%. The list was dominated by people problems.

If you’re a leader with responsibility for driving innovation, here are 5 ideas to create change and deliver impact in 2016 and beyond.

  1. Innovation Leadership Leading for innovation requires creating a culture in which people can take risks, where collaboration is expected and rewarded. It requires not only a strategic vision but also emotional intelligence. What impact are You having on innovation in your organization? Your beliefs, attitudes, fears, and strengths all show up in your actions, interactions, relationships, and decision-making. The first element of EQ in Daniel Goleman’s model is self-awareness. How is your innate tolerance for risk and uncertainty impacting your style, your language, your expectations of others? Are you setting up your people and teams for success? Are you clearing roadblocks and obstacles…or unknowingly creating them?
  2. Purpose and Meaning People are longing to make a difference and the opportunity to do that through their work is what is driving innovation across the globe. Not all businesses have a clear and compelling purpose beyond profits, but you can help your innovation teams focus on how their projects are serving others and how their personal contribution makes a difference on the team. Facilitate their discovery of meaning, make it personal, to truly inspire and engage them. Check out Deloitte’s research on the impact of creating a Culture of Purpose.
  3. Process and Outcomes Clarify the vision, engage people in creating the plan, and ensure they understand what is needed and expected at each stage of the innovation process. Clear process flow and decision-making criteria allow for greater self-management and accountability by the teams for their actions and results.
  4. Innovator Strengths Beyond functional expertise, every person has innate instincts that drive how he or she takes action in the creative problem solving process. Empowering innovators with insights into their own strengths and an appreciation for the differing strengths of their teammates leads to greater productivity and better results.
  5. Stakeholder Engagement Explicitly consider the needs of everyone that might be impacted by the innovation initiative and creatively engage them, actively seeking their input at key points in the innovation process. Who matters? Why do they care? How does what you do impact them? What are you solving for them? Does Customer Service have insights into your customers’ problems and needs that you can address if you involve them early? Think how much more supportive they’ll be when you roll out your product or service innovation if you’ve engaged them in creating the solution.

What are you doing differently in 2016 to inspire and empower your innovators?

The headline, "Doing Well by Doing Good” is not a new story, but the intrigue for me was Fortune featuring it on the cover ( of their September 1 issue.  Referring to the renewed attacks on capitalism in the 21st century, Alan Murray writes “The Friedmanites and Randians among us will dismiss such attacks as another misguided mutiny from the loopy left.”  After praising some of the world-changing contributions of capitalism in the past two decades, the author acknowledges “…many smart business leaders sense that something bigger is afoot, and recognize that they ignore such public currents at their peril.”  Fist bumps all around.

The initial tone of the article reminded me of the “defense of capitalism” I sensed from John Mackey (feature article, p76, when he spoke at the Kingsbury St Whole Foods store for a Conscious Capitalism Chicago chapter event a couple years ago.  The idealistic voice in my head continues to ask, “why can’t we all just get along?”  What if Instead of judging capitalism for what it has gotten "wrong,” and stirring the defensiveness, we asked how we can harness its power to take constructive action toward innovation that serves people and the planet?  And instead of judging idealism, what if we embraced its inherent power to engage our spirits in doing work that really matters?

I am unapologetically part of the “loopy left” but I grew up in and honor the competitive world of the MBA (long before “social entrepreneurship” was a thing) and CPG/Brand Management.  At Helene Curtis (now part of Unilever, #28 on Fortune’s list) we referred to P&G as the “evil empire” and at Gatorade each of us on the marketing team was given a pair of boxing gloves (seriously!) when we were battling Pepsi’s AllSport brand and Coke’s Powerade.  Gatorade clearly won that battle, but I suppose Pepsi won the war since they purchased our parent company, Quaker, in 2001.  Check out how Murray sets up the "new cola war” (p71) for which company is leading the battle for conserving water and who he picks as the (current) winner, essentially challenging them to channel their competitiveness into how they can change the world.

And, I’d offer, what might be possible if Coke and Pepsi were actually collaborating on conserving water to positively impact the planet?  Or creating water?  The questions we ask frame the answers we see.

There are so many great stories featured in this “Change the World List.” I loved seeing Nike, #37, celebrated for how it “zealously audits factories’ ability to meet the company’s labor, health, safety and environmental targets" now because of it’s past challenges.  It’s not about being perfect, it’s about getting better…every day, every year.  Let’s celebrate it all! Let’s accept and celebrate every company for the intention to do good regardless of where they are on their journey.  Let’s understand how it’s often from crises that the true character of leaders emerges and the purpose of organizations discovered or redefined.

Some surprises I appreciated on the list were multiple pharmaceutical companies and even Walmart, #4.  Let’s all open our hearts and minds to what is possible for every company that aspires to “do well by doing good.”

Murray offers in closing, “Our point is simply this:  Business in pursuit of profit still offers the best hope of addressing many of mankind’s most deeply rooted problems.  Companies that are making genuine efforts to change the world for the better should be encouraged.  The future of capitalism—and the future of mankind—depends on it.”

Because “what gets measured/celebrated, gets done,” thank you Fortune for celebrating the companies on your First Ever “Change the World List” and cheers to having more and more to celebrate!!  (Note, the author makes no attempt to rate the companies on overall “goodness” or “social responsibility,” acknowledging that some companies' actions are clearly in response to public criticism of their past actions and impact.)

What are you doing to inspire and empower innovators in your organization to create and deliver products and services that change the world?

Howard Gardner’s Five Minds for the Future offers a framework for succeeding in a world of accelerating change and information overload, ways of thinking that are essential to thrive as citizens of the twenty first century. Gardner’s groundbreaking theory of Multiple Intelligences identified distinct cognitive capabilities that make each of us unique. The 5 Minds he distinguishes are broad uses of the mind which utilize our several intelligences.

The 5 Minds Gardner delineates are directly applicable to the process of innovation in organizations, they are generative rather than descriptive. And, importantly, unlike the individual profile created by our inherent intelligences, the five minds can be cultivated. Because innovation is a team effort, the five minds are especially relevant because they explicitly include the human elements required to create the future.

The first three minds, Disciplined, Synthesizing, and Creative, relate to the cognitive spectrum and are sequential, building upon each other. The last two minds, Respectful and Ethical, relate to the human sphere and are foundational to the process of innovation and the way we approach our work and our interactions with others.

The Disciplined Mind is about mastering a way of thinking, working steadily over time to improve skill and understanding. In the innovation process, this is the way we think about our marketplace and our customers, the way we observe and gather information, develop theories and revise them when we make new discoveries. It’s about gaining expertise, not in the subject matter, but in the way we think about our innovation challenges and opportunities.

The Synthesizing Mind is about putting information together in ways that make sense to you, which are coherent and can be effectively communicated to others. In the innovation process, it’s about creating a framework for the vast amount of disparate data that we have, deliberately choosing what to listen to and why, as well as what to ignore and why. It’s about how we summarize the relevant information and convey our perceptions of the opportunities.

The Creative Mind is about coming up with new things which get accepted, delivering creative results. As Gardner notes, personality and temperament are at least as important to creativity as cognitive powers. Creativity requires taking chances, taking risks, not being afraid to fall down, and learning from our experiences. In the innovation process, creating something new requires a deep understanding of what already exists, a framework to make sense of how it all fits together, and a willingness to take risks. Only then can we create new products and services that meet the functional and emotional needs of our consumers and deliver innovation to the marketplace.

The Respectful Mind is about recognizing that the world is composed of people who look different, think differently and have different belief and value systems. It’s about trying to understand them better. In the innovation process, our cross-functional teams are a microcosm of this diversity with vastly different intelligences and modes of operation. Respecting, and learning to truly appreciate, each unique perspective and contribution creates an atmosphere of teamwork and common cause that can transform a group of people into a unified, brilliant team.

The Ethical Mind encourages us to consider our responsibilities as workers, rather than our rights, and to act on them. Gardner notes that Good Work embodies the three E’s: excellence (technical,) engagement (meaningfully involved in work we find motivating,) and ethical (behaving responsibly as a worker.) In the innovation process, teams that bring their technical excellence to their work, fully engage with one another consistently, and behave responsibly toward their projects and their peers will deliver significantly more impactful results.

The 5 Minds offer a roadmap for developing innovation competencies in our leaders and teams. In addition to how we think about our challenges, they represent the innovation mindsets and innovation values that can be cultivated to deliver creative results.

Lori Lovens
Innovation Savvy
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