Everything I Know about Leading Innovation I Learned in Kindergarten

Everything I Know about Leading Innovation I Learned in Kindergarten

I find it ironic that the people building clouds with collaborative, open-source software are challenged to agree on product strategy. I base this observation on Randy Bias’s State of the Stack address at the OpenStack Summit in Vancouver, BC.

Why is it that the folks working across company boundaries to build Open source software (OSS) products are having difficulty holding the necessary conversations to build consensus around product strategy and direction? I think it comes down to creative collaboration vs. working alone.

When one is working on a small piece of a problem, one can work alone, and then submit the work to the community for feedback and refinement. The problem is clear. It is easy to focus on the task at hand.

But when we set out to create new and inventive products and strategies, it requires the ability to work with people who have divergent perspectives. That’s where great innovation happens – when hunches collide.

I first experienced the effects of this collision (or lack thereof) while working with a group of kindergartners on an extracurricular, creative problem solving program called Destination Imagination. The children had been conditioned to sit still and be quiet. Collaboration was not part of their curriculum. How can we learn to have vibrant idea exchanges where “hunches can collide” when we are told to sit down, be quiet, and raise our little hands? Sometimes what is needed is to “raise a little ruckus.”

In my experience, as affirmed by Keith SawyerSteven Johnson and others, opportunities to play together (e.g. music, sports, theater, etc.) build collaborative ideation and problem solving skills. The more different we are, the more creative we can be.

Finding ways for people to “play” in a business setting is complicated but rewarding when done right. We need to go beyond open rooms with bean bag chairs and pool tables. Companies must take the opportunity to leverage the current trend of gamification in their businesses, using game elements to effectively build on intrinsic motivators.

In the game of business, you’ve got to play to win. That’s why The Connected Age uses gamification in our Inspiring Innovation Workshops. Incorporating a few simple game elements goes far in building trust and camaraderie – both of which are crucial when strong minds come together to tackle big strategy questions. It’s never too late to learn how to play nice and let hunches collide.


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