Next Level Leadership Blog


Small Experiments Pack Potential for Innovative Results


“Some see things as they are and ask why.  Others dream things that never were and ask why not.”  – George Bernard Shaw

Recently I challenged a team of leader managers from one department to think differently about how they make connections with other departments.  First, we connected with the organization’s mission, vision and core values.  Second, we explored the purpose, key drivers and priorities of each department.  Third, we considered how the department I was working with – “shakes hands” with every other department.  This idea of “shaking hands” comes from Judith E. Glaser’s work Conversational Intelligence®.  When we “shake hands” we make a more intimate connection, by looking at each other in the eye.  When we “shake hands” we feel each other’s energy in a way that creates a willingness to listen more carefully.  Fourth, I invited the team to identify the elements of a vision for their team.  These would be elements that help them behave in ways that other departments would value.  Next, in 20 minutes I had two sub-teams create and perform a “commercial” communicating their visions.  They were more creative and better than I could have ever anticipated.  Finally, with lots of oxytocin flowing, the team came up with six new ideas to experiment with to better connect and more effectively work with the other departments.

The first four steps in this roadmap primed the team for trust.  Team members expanded their appreciation of other departments enabling more objectivity about their working relationship, rather than being defensive or reactive to the other department’s action.  During the discussion, the neurochemical oxytocin was released in the team’s collective brain.  “Oxytocin is a neurochemical associated with nurturing and bonding.   When it’s flowing in our brains it reduces anxiety and helps us feel more social confidence and connection.  In the body, we often experience it as warm and relaxing.  When we experience it with others, we usually feel relational resonance.” (Judith E. Glaser, Conversational Intelligence® Chemical Conversations).  For this team, the result was the new ideas they co-created and the excitement of implementing them.  The positive energy they experienced gave them a sense that their ideas could really work to the benefit of everyone.

This example illustrates a fresh, successful approach to challenging this team’s critical thinking.  It raised awareness, it opened up perspective, and it got team members thinking about options they previously never considered.  By coming to this new awareness together, it expanded the team’s commitment to the ideas and the chance they will take the actions they outlined.  “Defined as a novel creation that produces value, an innovation can be as slight as a new nail polish color or as vast as the world wide web.” On the spectrum of innovation, my effort was “like a new nail polish color”.  It was a “core innovation”.  It introduced something new using available resources and it produced a dramatic change.  Different from an “adjacent innovation” that creates an incremental change that’s new for the company or a “transformational innovation” that produces breakthroughs and inventions that didn’t exist before, a “core innovation” is easily accessible to leaders willing to push out the boundaries of their own thinking.  (Bansi Nagji and Geoff Tuff, Managing Your Innovation Portfolio.  Harvard Business Review. May 2012).

What’s key here is that innovation doesn’t have to be big and costly.  It just has to be something fresh and different, something that expands on the ordinary.  For busy association leaders it’s often easier to keep doing the same thing out of habit, whether it’s working or not.  For the most effective leaders, their success comes from insisting on continuous improvement.  Take a few minutes to reflect on the last 11 months of your leadership.  Where did you experiment with something innovative that changed the way you work or your team works?  What was the result and who benefited?  How can you use these results to keep your own fire for innovation burning bright?  (“The Leadership Challenge” A Wiley Brand) (www.leadership


Managance Consulting & Coaching is on a mission to ignite passion and energize opportunity in association and other nonprofit organization work places.  Denice Hinden, PhD, PCC, President and her team inspire leaders and teams to their next level of leadership and develop more trusting “we-centered” organizational cultures with transformational leadership development and engaging strategic thinking.  Denice is Certified in Conversational Intelligence®.  Do you have an idea you would like to explore?  Contact Denice to schedule a complimentary discovery conversation – – 866-481-2290.


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