A few key takeaways from our Executive Retreat on Growth Through Innovation

Many people have told me what they believe are the key takeaways from our conference. This is a distillation of my thoughts and what we’ve received from our Executive Advisors and members. Please feel free to comment below so we circulate additional thoughts among the membership. The ongoing dialogue will be crucial in the year ahead.

Hal Gregersen said, “If you want to grow through Innovation you need to Think Differently and Act Differently.” That’s the overriding theme encompassing all the speakers and internal discussions in our three days together.

1.   Perhaps the key takeaway: Relentless Solution Focus (RSF) – Dr. Jason Selk’s talk certainly was a hit. As he stated, our brains are hard-wired to focus on problems, leading to suboptimal outcomes and anxiety. That was a major eye-opener to most members.  Selk urged us to retrain our brains to focus on solutions, stating that highly successful people are obsessed with improvement. In another unusual idea, he urged us not just to develop a RSF but to teach it, too, as a way to internalize it.  RSF includes understanding the problem but also requires immediate focus on the one thing to do right now to improve the situation.  What can you do differently, right now that will make a difference?  This applies to everything in life — both professionally and personally.

2.  Gregersen drew a distinction between discovery-driven and delivery-driven leaders.  Innovation and Growth come from the discovery-driven leader. Those who drive innovation within their organizations spend four months a year in discovery. They focus on mastering these key skills:

Questioning – Critical to any opportunity for discovery or innovation, asking the right questions is essential.  Ask “Why Not” or “What If.”  Brainstorm the questions and push yourself. Don’t be limited to one or two – explore by asking as many questions as possible.

Observing – Take the time to observe customers, services and products.  A great example was P&G’s A.G. Lafley who not only visits his customers in various countries but also sets time aside to speak with end-consumers in those places. Or how about the 82-year old Toyota chairman, scion of the founding family, who observed auto-manufacturing processes at the plant in Cambridge and suggested improvements to Daryl Wilson?

Networking – Examine your network. Who do you speak to? How often do you spend time outside of the office to gain valuable insights?  To drive any innovation, diversity is required.  Doing the same thing every day in the office will never permit listening to what others outside of your industry are saying about the future.  John Sutherland talked about stepping outside your business, looking at the technologies on the horizon. They will definitely influence the way work tomorrow.  To network effectively – open yourself up to discussions happening all around you! Listen!

Experiment – Try out new things, take apart products, processes, and ideas and recreate them.  Test-drive rapidly and cheaply.  The world is changing – ideas are being generated globally. Analyzing and getting to 100 per cent before every launch is not an acceptable methodology – it dooms you from the start.

Associating – Taking ideas, products and putting them together in ways that you wouldn’t necessarily think possible creates something different.  If you observe, network and train your brain to carry these thoughts and associate them together – driving innovation to within grasp.

Taking time for innovation. The great companies let people have non-programmatic time to think about what else might be possible. At Google, it’s a day a week. In this case, thinking is more important than executing. You say you don’t have the time: make it.

To be successful there must be leaders spearheading execution who can be looked upon as delivery-driven. They focus their efforts on the planning, analyzing and execution of the organization’s strategic objectives – and are extremely detailed and self-disciplined.

3.  You are either a disruptor or you are being disrupted…Look outside your current competitors for new threats and opportunities to your business. Most industries will be disrupted with technologies on the horizon if not already available.  It’s critical: a leader must understand these technologies and the opportunities emerging from them. That’s how to disrupt the current way of doing business – and reap the benefits of exponential growth.


1 reply
  1. rhonda page
    rhonda page says:

    These are all good. I am now leading an organization and need all the help I can get!. I would add to this list to read the book “The leader with no Title” by Robin Sharma – fantastic – all about creating a self managing organization.


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