Serious about innovation? Here 2 more questions that demand the attention of leaders

Last week I shared with you what I call the litmus test for innovation leadership, two questions I ask leaders to get a feel for if they have what it takes to innovate; or create the context for innovation within their organization.

Those two diagnostic questions are key for me when I’m asked to help companies innovate. As I’m always on the hunt for new questions to add to my arsenal, while reading Alan Webber’s book Rules of Thumb I found two more questions that I believe demand attention from leaders:

  • What keeps you up at night? What are the problems that nag at you?
  • What gets you up in the morning? What keeps you and your people more committed than ever?

These two questions are more reflective in nature, with the last one being the most important one. Why? Because if you don’t have a good reason to wake up every morning, other than just for the job you need to go to to pay the bills, you have no motivation to create change in yourself, the workplace and much less the world.

In other words, what’s your passion?

Much of the literature around business in general has to do with the thinking part — skills, training, practices and management — while the soft part is mostly relegated to the creatives. To think mechanically, predictably and without errors; this is how we “program” people to think about business while they are in college.

But that is the wrong way to coach people. You see, business isn’t just about out-thinking; it’s about out-caring: giving a damn about the stuff most people take for granted.

For that you have to be passionate enough to develop a point of view, not follow the same beliefs everyone has just because “that’s the way it is”. People who are motivated to make change have so much energy they don’t want to sleep. There’s just too much to learn and do that if they do sleep, they don’t wait for the alarm clock to sound; they just get up. If you are serious about making change, be the type of person that when you wake up, all the conformists say: “Ah shit, he’s up!”

As a real leader, you want your organization to stand the test of time, to be relevant in people’s lives throughout years and years to come. If that is what you want, then you have to remember that innovation requires a sense of purpose; and it starts in the heart. If you don’t take this to heart, your organization will be yet another one where employees are disengaged from their jobs, where people only come to work so they can pay the bills; don’t expect your organization to last long.

Bottom line: Passion is about why we do what we do. Not what, how or when. Why we get up in the morning. And the companies with the strongest opinions and emotions win; not the ones that are dull and purposeless.

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