April 27, 2011
Deference and Difference: Who Yields for Innovation?
Youth to age.
Inexperience to experience.
Newcomer to veteran.
Minority to majority.
Intuition to data.
Outsiders to insiders.
This is how deference commonly occurs in group decision-making.
If we are looking to enact a culture conducive to innovation, the deference often needs to be to the difference and the rules for yielding must be reversed: the knowing to the fresh perspectives, veterans to newcomers, the norms to the differences, internal savvy to external freshness, the counter-cultural to the cultural.
When a city implements an innovative solution to make traffic move more quickly and safely—such as replacing stop signs with roundabouts—drivers have to pay attention more to other drivers and learn new rules for engagement and integrating themselves into the traffic flow.
For similar shifts to occur in our organizations, many are going to require a refresher course in driver's ed, relegating themselves to an Unlearning Permit in order to relax or let go of the mindsets and behaviors that often have served them well. If we want innovative results, we're going to have to change the habits of how we talk and go about creating them.