Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Creating value from constructive conflict 1: the need for building a creative commons for innovation development

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 17, 2014

When no one can disagree and only consensus is allowed, misunderstandings can never be acknowledged let alone resolved, gaps in systems and processes can never be addressed, and innovation and change cannot take place.

This posting is not about confrontation, and it is certainly not written in support of antagonism in the workplace, or of blind insistence on anyone’s part. It is about creating a climate where people can disagree and even loudly – but where open mouths have to be matched with open ears and open minds too. It is about creating a commons area within a business where ideas can be safely offered and challenged, and where the best of them can rise to the top for exploration and development in ongoing business practice and execution. And this posting is about:

• Putting disagreement and contention into perspective
• So as to limit the likelihood of its devolving into more destructive alternatives of self-defensive wall building and hostility
• And the conflict that comes when employees who are committed to doing the best work that they can, see no opportunity to raise questions or to pose alternative approaches to resolving them.

Open discussion and the championing of competing ideas encourage creativity and innovation. And just as importantly, they foster a sense of belonging and of ownership in the ongoing success of the business or organization. They engender employee loyalty. They help a business to retain their best, most creative and innovative employees and the value that they can bring.

It is important to remember in this context that innovation as an active process, is a contact sport. There are lone innovators in many organizations who come up with initial ideas and insights. But bringing their ideas into fruition and into production as finalized marketable products or services usually means their arguing their case to others and enlisting the understanding and support of their managers and other colleagues too. So even there, when considering lone innovators, innovation or at least its productive realization is not simply a solo endeavor.

This posting up to here at least is about creating a fair and open playing field where ideas can collide and be challenged and where their best elements offered can be combined to form still better new alternatives. And this posting is about respecting the people who seek to create New, and even if their particular contributions to creating that do not always prove successful. With further refinement and clearer presentation they might still prove to be best steps forward the next time around. But talk and even enlisted support of new ideas and proposals can only be a first step to making openness and innovation work, practically.

An effective innovative organization has to foster a culture that supports more than just bringing words to the table. It has to actively support prototyping and testing those ideas in realized implementations. This means giving employees with new ideas that they seek to champion, opportunity to devote some of their own work time and effort towards developing and testing their proposed innovations. This can mean allowing them to assemble like-minded teams of colleagues for developing and test-case developing and validating their new and innovative ideas. And this means allowing those new ideas to succeed or fail, and it means rewarding the successes achieved without punishing innovators when their ideas do not pan out.

I have actively and specifically addressed a range of next steps that follow initial innovation conceptualizing and the conversation of a creative commons in other postings and series to this blog. In that regard I would cite my series: Keeping Innovation Fresh (see Business Strategy and Operations – 2, postings 241 and loosely following for its Parts 1-16) and Innovators, Innovation Teams and the Innovation Process (same directory page, postings 366 and loosely following for its Parts 1-13, and Business Strategy and Operations – 3, postings 402 and loosely following for Parts14-19.) My goal here is to begin a discussion of the creative commons itself, as a safe place to share, explore, debate and argue the case for new proposed innovations and new ideas and approaches.

I am going to continue this discussion on a next installment where I will at least begin outlining approaches for setting up and maintaining this type of business resource. I will also delve into the issues of how this would connect into and support the business as a whole. In anticipation of that I note that I will be building this series’ discussion from a foundation that I began with postings like: Connecting an Organization Together, Version 2.0. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and also at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. And you can also find this and related material at HR and Personnel – 2, and at HR and Personnel.

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