The Role of AI in Marketing A Conversation with Katie Robert 7

What we get wrong about innovation

This content was originally featured in the July 19, 2023 newsletter found here:

“Never have a good conversation behind closed doors.”

Last week, someone on LinkedIn quoted me as posting, “Never have a good conversation behind closed doors.” This post is now 7 years old, but the comment stuck with her. You can read her full post here:

If I got back in time to where I was 7 years ago, my guess is that felt frustrated by leadership team. They would have closed door meetings to try and solve problems that they were out of touch with. Come to think of it, this is a very common issue at a lot of companies. Good ideas can only come from the top, right?

I used to work at a company that was very strict on hierarchies and would often tell me that certain conversations were, “above my pay grade”. While certain conversations were, indeed, above my pay grade, solving customer issues was not. This same company would then hand down half baked solutions with no supporting data and ask my team to execute on it with no further conversation. Forget the fact that my team and I were closest to the customer, but the leadership team didn’t want our input. Needless to say, the solutions often flopped and leadership would be furious about the time and money that was being wasted. Then the cycle would start all over again.

This is why I said what I said. Everyone, and I mean everyone, at any given company has thoughts, feedback, and ideas. Some of the ideas need more exploration, some of the ideas might not see the light of day, and some of the ideas are exactly what’s needed.

What we’re really talking about is getting to true innovation. Innovation is taking a product, a service, or an idea, and breathing new and refreshed life into it. It’s putting a new spin on an old thing. And this is where my statement comes into play. If leadership is so confident that only the executive team has innovative ideas, they are already failing.

There are a few different pieces needed to have true innovation in a company. Innovation needs collaboration, communication, cooperation, participation, and ideation.

Please don’t groan at me for rhyming. I thought it was pretty clever.

Ok, back to the point…

Before you can get to innovation, you need more than only you. You need collaboration. To get to collaboration, you need communication. To get to communication you need cooperation. To get to cooperation you need participation. To get to participation you need ideation.

Here’s how it works. Someone in your company, regardless of role, has an idea that they want to explore. They start talking to their team and their manager. The team and the manager agree to participate in this ideation. The manager takes the idea to leadership and they also agree to participate in this ideation. Now we’re cooperating as a company. With this cooperation, we see that the original idea is being communicated around and different people from around the company are collaborating. This has now gone from one single person’s thought into true ideation with the goal of collaborating on an innovative solution.

That’s overcomplicated, isn’t it? But I really, really liked my rhyming.

The point is that you should never have a good conversation behind closed doors. Why? Because you can’t truly innovate alone. You need the voices and input of others to make your idea the best it can be. Shake off the constraints of a corporate hierarchy. A good idea is a good idea, regardless of the source.

To that, it’s not enough to take the ideas from across the company. You need to let people participate and collaborate in the communication. You need to cooperate with the staff and dig into the conversations.

If you’re part of a leadership team that doesn’t take input from the rest of the company and only has “good” conversations behind closed doors, I challenge you to change that. Not all at one, change takes time. But maybe once a quarter you bring in your directors or managers to have a more collaborative conversation about what’s going on. Maybe once a quarter bring in your customer support team to hear directly from them what customers are saying. But don’t think that for one second you can innovate in a vacuum.

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