By Kevin Bolen
"What can I do starting tomorrow to get us rolling on innovation?"
This was the question one of our clients, a division president, posed to me at the close of a half-day leadership off-site—and it was a good one. He had taken to heart my statement that a culture of innovation is not something that you install through e-mail or PowerPoint. It's a byproduct of behavior modification: Reinforce the right ones and the culture will follow.
"Change the questions you ask," I replied to him and to every other leader who has asked me since.
It's a simple shift, but one with powerful ramifications. The questions you ask—and the types of answers you consider acceptable—are key drivers of behavior. Consider, for example, what would happen if, instead of inquiring about payback times and internal rate of return (IRR) projections, you started every investment or product planning meeting by asking a different set of questions, including looking for a more fundamental kind of information. Such inquiries might include:
- Who is the customer we are seeking to help with this investment?
- What need do they have (their job to be done, in our vernacular) that we are addressing?