Innovation Culture Horibe F 2001 essay

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Both dissenters and innovators are outsiders -- thinking and acting outside the box. The very qualities that make these individuals annoying (e.g. arrogance, single-mindedness) are also part of the types of qualities (passion, drive, confidence) that are needed to keep ideas alive and vital. A good manager can deal with the package and manage the wheat with the chaff.

Talking Points

Usually impossible to get the type of innovators one wants without getting some of their own negatives (arrogance, inability to compromise, etc.).

Managing means eliciting the needed strengths out of each individual employee, and harkens back to the idea that not all employees are equal.

Managers often have the urge to tame the wild nature of a dissenter; to "bring them into the fold."

There are people who provide dissent because they are simply unhappy -- regardless of the situation. These types of dissenters rarely contribute innovation, but instead provide a litany of all the things they perceive as wrong with the company.

Recruit innovation -- don't be afraid of it.

Chapter 8 -- the Manager as Political Handler -- We've established that innovators and dissenters are able to provide valuable and insightful ideas to the organization, but need to be coached on the political skills necessary to get their ideas past the drawing board, and into the hands of all the other disciplines and departments who may be impacted or will allow a complete implementation. The manager's role, then, of this personality, whether it is an individual or a group of dissenters, is to play to the strengths, reduce the appearance of the weaknesses, and gathering funding and support for ideas that may well provide exactly what the company requires in terms of innovation. Keeping an innovator happy is far more than providing a paycheck, and will take extra time, energy and creativity on the manager's part if one is to keep this personality part of the team.

Talking Points

Innovation has two aspects -- the great idea and the ability to make that idea come to reality -- one cannot have one without the other.

This requires the ability for managers to build coalitions, which is something the dissenter/innovator is almost incapable of.

The sad but true case is that managers, in the midst of everything else they must do, must excel at being political handlers.

The managerial skills necessary to handle these dissenters/innovators are: gathering support, providing cover, taking and giving credit, managing expectations, getting cooperation without co-opting ideas, and retaining the innovators within the team.

Chapter 9 -- Coaching Dissenters- All management is not coaching, but all coaching is management- this is especially true when handling innovators. The correctness of the American business political culture is not debatable -- it is what it is -- and the manager must be a political buffer between the dissenter and the rest of the organization. This is difficult because these individuals are so arrogant and single-minded that they often continually damage themselves and their projects. Thus, the manager takes on a dual role: with the dissenter, the manager teaches and coaches on the way to acquire very basic and rudimentary political skills; with the rest of the company, the manager encourages others to look past certain behaviors and embrace the ideas and enthusiasm with which the dissenter operates.

Talking Points

Even though we acknowledge that dissenters are not political animals, if they are too far outside the normative culture they may threaten not only their own career, but the manager's as well.

The manager must convince the dissenter that there are positives to learning how to relate.

Preparing for a coaching session means taking a honed and strategic approach. One is not going after 101 personality traits, but instead, identifies the exact problem, specifies the desired change, decides how far to push the issue, and anticipates defensiveness and negative reactions.

Coaching the dissenter not only brings the problem to a head; but requires that the issue be changed; and ensures that the manager will follow through.

Chapter 10 -- Identifying Underground Dissent- Another very difficult task for a manager regarding dissent is to identify whether an individual or work unit is getting along well, being productive or simply suppressing dissent and harboring resentment. On the very surface side, both look the same, but there are ways to uncover the truth. There are also times in which managers start to value efficiency too much over innovation and this pushes employees into underground dissent. For instance, legitimate objections like, "We won't be able to meet this goal unless we kill ourselves and work 7 days a week for the next 8 weeks." This is not negative dissent, but truth -- the good manager would find ways to either realize the goal set or adjust it.

Talking Points

Dissent is destructive if it goes underground.

Underground dissent overtly and covertly works against the goals and strategic mission of the company.

The more sophisticated the underground dissent, the harder it is to manage and turn around.

Underground dissent is a way of communicating when employees feel they cannot or are too afraid of consequences.

Ensure employees that consequences to honesty will not be harsh, and honesty is appreciated and valued.

Sometimes there is such an ingrained culture of fear that underground dissent is the only way an individual knows how to deal with conflict; it is then up to the managers.

Chapter 11- Surfacing Dissent in and Around You -- Even if a manager is particularly in tune with the work group and identifies underground dissent, this does not mean it will surface or go away. Managers need to help employees and colleagues be more open, question their motives, and act as change agents within a destructive part of that particular culture. The idea of changing the culture can be both confusing and frightening for managers -- who also sometimes feel that they are simply "cogs" in the machine. While one can certainly agree that a company culture is gigantic -- amorphous, and even sometimes vague, it still is possible to understand that any change begins with the individual and moves outward. One cannot change the culture of a company unless one is willing to risk and change one's own perceptions. This, according to the author, separates out leaders from managers -- leaders can tolerate dissent because they have some of those features internally.

Talking Points

Surfacing dissent within oneself is also important as a process of discovery in management.

If one finds one cannot in good conscience dissent, then one must ask if it is time to leave that position -- if not, either speaking out or attitudinal change is necessary.

Dissent can sometime backfire and cause a breakdown and inability to survive the company's monolithic viewpoints.

Decide where your colleagues lie within the dissent quotient (supportive to neutral to harm).

Chapter 12 -- Surfacing Dissent Above You -- Let us suppose a manager is successful in surfacing dissent in themselves as well as the workgroup. If the communication and openness uncovered does not operate upward to upper management, it will remain difficult to innovate. It is certainly difficult and challenging to raise dissent with one's workgroup, and tough psychologically to raise it within one's own personality. It becomes doubly difficult to raise it with one's superior and there are even greater risks associated with doing such.

Talking Points

In some cases it may not be worth surfacing dissent with one's superiors.

The ability to phrase things in a professional yet diplomatic manner is really the deciding factor of whether are not to articulate the situations that have occurred within the work group. On one hand, surfacing dissent could have grave consequences for the dissenter and the manager; on the other hand, not surfacing that dissent if uncovered later could have similar negative consequences.

The idea of whether a boss is "worth" helping has little to do with personality idiosyncrasies -- instead, is a core of decency and a wish to do well for the company, and his employees, in the long run.

Be prepared -- when a manager loses it, they do it in a variety of ways; dealing with those emotions proactively is an important part of honesty.

Surfacing dissent with one's superiors will depend, in a large part, with the manager's own skills, the personality of the boss, the history and place of the boss within that company culture, and the timing of the conversation.

Chapter 13 -- Kickstarting Your Innovation Culture -- Clearly, everything we have read thus far tells us that although changing the culture of a monolithic corporation is every manager's dream -- so is creating one that supports innovation -- and combining those two may need several techniques to boost. One technique for doing this, and retaining one's career is hiring an Innovation Manager -- or becoming one. Keep in mind, this is a dangerous road -- the CEO's direct reports likely…[continue]

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