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Do You Think You’re Encouraging Innovation?

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The illusory superiority bias is one of the more commonplace in society.  If you haven’t come across it before, it’s the psychological reasoning behind our often false sense of self-confidence.  In plain English, we often think we’re much better at things than we really are.  It’s one of the reasons why performance management systems such as Work.com are so effective, because they use other people to provide the appraisals, and those people often have a much better grasp on reality than we do.

A nice study that typifies the delusions so many of us work under was conducted by Development Dimensions International.  They were looking in particular at innovation, and in particular how innovative we believe our behaviours are.

They asked approximately 1,000 professionals about innovation in their workplace, and in particular their own experiences of the innovative cultures where they worked.  Half of those in the study were managers, whilst the other half were not.  Would the opinions of the managers match up with those of their team?

You won’t be surprised to learn that the answer is a firm no, but what may surprise you is just how far the disconnect was.  For instance, when asked whether their leader demonstrated unwavering openness and appreciation for unique ideas and opinions, just 43% of employees agreed.  A whopping 78% of managers thought they demonstrated these traits though.

The trend continues.

When asked whether employees are encouraged by their managers to expand their understanding of business trends and emerging issues, just 51% of employees agreed vs 77% of managers.

A similar lack of awareness was evident when looking at how mistakes are dealt with.  Just 47% of employees thought managers helped them learn from mistakes, vs 77% of managers.

Likewise, just 42% of employee thought their managers took the ideas they produced and championed them to senior management, which was a stark contrast to the 75% of managers who believed they did this very well.

The report went on to share what they believe the managers key role should be in the innovation process.  They break it down into four pieces.

  1. They inspire curiosity
  2. They challenge current perspectives
  3. They create freedom
  4. They drive discipline

Sadly, despite most managers believing they did all of those things, most of their team didn’t.  On the off chance that you’re one of those managers that has a slightly tighter grasp on reality and would like to improve your own performance when it comes to innovation, the report concludes with four steps you can take right away to get things moving.

  1. Senior Management Sets the Pace
  2. Choose the Right Leaders
  3. Develop Innovation Leaders
  4. Build a Business Process for Innovation.

Find the full report here, and an executive summary of it here.

Republished with permission

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