If you’re like me, you have a hard time not finding at least a little bit of meaning in the patterns of nature.
Here in Northern California we are clearly in spring, a time of abundant growth. From trees to perennials, the tender green shoots of new growth are all around us. Nature is in the process of innovating. Old growth is falling away to allow the birth of the new.
But while nature makes growth look easy, forging new pathways at work can be more difficult, and take much more concerted intention and effort.
Just like the new tender green sprouts all around us, new ideas in the work place need to be given the chance to grow. The seeds of innovation must be watered and cared for, because you can’t tell if a new sprout will bear fruit without giving it the time and space to grow!
Too often, I have seen organizational leaders try to apply old ways of doing things to new ideas, and then think “this new idea will never work”. Leaders that have been around awhile can at times judge new ideas as impractical or impossible—cutting off potential growth before it has a chance to sprout, and shutting down innovation.
I sometimes wonder how many good ideas are thrown out too fast?
Dave Allan and Matt Kingdon in their book Sticky Wisdom (2002) suggest that new ideas need to be allowed the opportunity to “greenhouse”. The premise is that although not all ideas will grow to maturation, it is important not to judge new ideas too quickly.
We all know that working on a new skill or idea can feel wobbly. In the process of learning and growing we may sometimes feel uncertain, unsure of ourselves, or even like an imposter. This is the time we most need “greenhousing”. It is important to protect yourself from criticism (from yourself or others) during this time, and get the support you need to be curious about what is growing inside you, or inside your team.
We are trained in business to discern and think critically. To be ready to say no - for the right reasons. But if we judge our new growth too quickly, the seeds of innovation are not watered, and we don’t allow ourselves the space and time to grow and learn.
I was thinking about all this last week while consulting with a division of a high profile hospital. The work was to assist the team to find innovative ways to serve their patients within the difficult constraints of budgets, and limited resources and space. There were multiple new people in this group that were seeing these long-term problems with fresh eyes, but because they were new and not in positions of power, their ideas had not been well cultivated on the team. With our support, the team was able open to new ways to navigate their constraints and meet their goals—ways that integrated both new thinking and old school tradition and values. It was heartwarming to see the effect on the old guard, whose growth had become understandably stunted after so many years with little support.
So, this spring, I encourage you to protect the tender green shoots of your budding strengths and new ideas. You never know when they will bear fruit. Build a “greenhouse” around them. Offer them the protection they need to grow until they can stand and be measured on their own full merit.
At Leadership Landing we’ve been doing a bit of this innovating ourselves and I am excited to share that the result is a brand new Leadership Landing website! Rethinking something as important as our website took a surprising amount of focus and hard work. But we gave ourselves the space and time we needed, and we did it!
Please take a look at the new site and let us know what you think!