Innovation is an overused word, and you are going to hear it over and over again as you are interviewing and begin to work for a company.

Having a good handle on the many layers of innovation is a good idea.

Here are some thoughts on the topic and how we coach leaders on the subject, as well as a chance to hear Mike Maddock talk about a way that all of us can join the innovation party.

Is Innovation an Issue?

For many innovation is a huge challenge, while others seem to surf on its edge like a short board savant. Innovation, like a wave, is about change. Change can be rough, especially when you have things just the way you want them. The study and practice of a business is often described as the breaking down of processes to improve on them so that more margin can be procured while still enhancing the customer experience. Curiosity reigns in both the act of improving a process and of listening to a customer, yet they are described by their owners in very different terms. The left brain business process Queen is endlessly curious how to improve a supply chain for efficiency sake, while the right brain idea generating Prince ends up lost in thought studying a customer’s experience. Quick question, do you think this Queen and Prince can see the curiosity in each other’s actions? Our experience says it seldom occurs.

We had many interactions this year that were leading us towards the previous statement, but listening to one person in particular made a difference. Mike Maddock of Maddock Douglas told us to look for the tension. We think you should look for tension in two places. First, seek to create a healthy tension between your smart creative types and your puzzle fixer types. As the leader take the time to help them both see the genius of the other and push them to be constantly curious both in their pursuits and the understanding of others. Second, when it comes to innovating as a company, look for tension in a customer base and see where your skills and experience overlap. Add in some listening exercises and then create an offering or product that solves for the tension. When done correctly, the socially connected customers will tell each other and you are off to the races. Want an example, think of the people who could have sold you a blanket, but instead cut two holes in it, called it a SNUGGIE…. Watch Mike’s talk here.