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  • Writer's pictureLisa Phelan

One Fits None

We completely recognize and respect that each of us is an individual, with unique motivations, approaches, tolerance levels and preferred styles. This is what makes life interesting, keeps us learning and provides perspective. We accept and innately know that our point of view is not the only one or the absolute right one, unless we are ego-trapped or self-deluded. As famed screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski so eloquently stated ‘never follow somebody else’s paths, it doesn’t work the same way twice for anyone.’

Yet, as organizations, processes and strategies often become doctrine forced to fit on all happening within. Individual reality and expression are squashed in order to stay true to the ‘one way of working’. And while there’s a guarantee that this will not get you to the best result or to true innovation, the biggest loss is the energy and engagement from your people.

In this ‘system’ of fixed processes and guidelines, the need to think, to learn, to seek often gets lost. This pursuit often gets transferred to box checking or going through the motions. The questions of ‘why?’ and ‘why not?’ are no longer asked, but replaced with ‘what’s the trick to get this approved?’ and ‘we’re stuck, guess it’s done’.

Yet, processes, strategies and guidelines are not diabolically evil…it’s the way they are used as sticks that hurts. When they are used as frameworks or springboards to deeper exploration or shared learning, the power and momentum is palpable. They can create a starting point for discussion and a common language and shared commitment.

The difference between driver of innovation vs. downer of innovation seems obvious, yet make or break your program. Trust me…too many organization allow the rigidity to get in the way of good intention and unrealized possibility.

Process doesn’t have to be painful or straightjacketing. We believe it can create structure, common language/understanding and opportunity for acceleration when it is treated as a starting point for innovation and evolved and shaped based upon the real needs of the organization and/or project. Our approach is to design processes that are iterative rather than linear and create openness rather than conformity.

So if your innovation process is sucking the souls out of your employees, think about what you really are trying to achieve…and fix it NOW!


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