Get the POINt?
What’s the point of innovative thinking if our egos get so wrapped up in the “newness” we’ve created that we can’t handle some constructive criticism? What’s the point in creating the basics of an idea if it dies on the vine because we don’t have a good tool to fertilize it to Agricultural Fair quality? What’s the point in evaluating an employee if we can’t find a way to help them improve?
In the pharmaceutical research world, the standard cost metric for a compound or molecule moving through the development pipeline is one million dollars a day. For this reason, there are efforts at every drug company to safely speed the pipeline. One of the safest ways to do that is to make earlier decisions about when a potential product should be abandoned due to safety, effectiveness or market dynamics. Every day the product lives is 1 million dollars, so the saying goes. If it’s ultimately going nowhere, stopping development as soon as possible can save millions.
An effort was launched at one of our client companies to find ways to wisely stop development sooner, and teams were formed to develop proposals and present them to a governance group. In one governance meeting, as the team presented, the typical gator response “That won’t work because…” was the first noise to come from the senior group. One member of the group woke up to his innovation leader responsibility first, remembered the POINt procedure and acted on it, saying “Hold on a minute, these guys have done a lot of smart work here, and all we’re doing is pointing out what we don’t like. What’s good about this proposal?”
A debriefing of this meeting with governance group members and the proposal team uncovered a strong belief that the idea, as presented, was going to end up in the circular pattern of proposal — refinement until it was worn down to nothing. That’s not what happened, and they believe it was the intervention of one “awake” executive that turned the tide. The idea was a “three day” improvement that has application to every product in the pipeline. It was placed in their development SOP, and saves three million dollars every time it’s implemented. Praise first!
POINt is the point of this month’s newsletter. It’s a tool, perhaps the most robust tool we use, to evaluate, and strengthen ideas, concepts and even people. When you get it internalized, it’s one of those Emotional Intelligence (EI) improving things that has a big impact on how you see the world and how you’re seen by it.Whenever the world has been saved by people, rather than a superhero of some sort, any debrief of the “saving process” will uncover some version of the POINt procedure for those who know what they’re looking for. Really. It’s pretty good stuff.
The intent of this article is to show you the pattern and then really look at the process of thinking under each of the core components. We invite you to think about this from two perspectives: evaluating ideas, and evaluating people.
POINt is an acronym reminding us of Pluses, Opportunities, Issues and New thinking.
Every idea, every person we work with, every concept has something good about it / them. The only reason we can’t see “goodness” is our own lack of innovation intelligence (I2). Find the good things. POINt them out. Get beyond the “That’s creative” platitudes. People see through false praise in an intuitive instant. If you find yourself unable to find pluses because the person or idea is “so stupid there are no pluses” you need a time out for a good look in the mirror. Frankly, this dynamic can only occur in some version of the following circumstance: Your arrogance allows you to make up a story that people around you are stupid as a way to excuse yourself from the responsibility of finding their unique greatness — yes — you’re too stuck up your gatorbrain to be able to use your cortex to find the good stuff. Whatever it is, the person in the mirror needs a wake-up call. We’ve seen you be great before. We know you can do it again. Find the pluses.
This is the first of the two “mental tricks” that live inside of POINt. Here, you are still looking for pluses, but for those that are a bit more of a maybe. “This (good thing) might happen if the idea is implemented.” “Based on the things you’re already showing us in your work here, you might also offer us good value in (this) way.”
The mental trick component here is that we are disciplined to look even deeper for pluses, and make connections from the basic idea, or employee as they are today, to the positive future impact that might accrue from the idea or work of that employee. As the employee or idea is looked at in this way, the part we should grow in aid of the future is nurtured effectively. We’re also clearly demonstrating that we are mentally present and truly thinking about what’s in front of us. This is a discipline that effectively overrides the GatorBrain pattern and puts us in the innovation leader pattern instead.
Show us a perfect idea or perfect person, and we’ll send you a newsletter on delusion. Only mothers of children are allowed to see perfection where it is impossible that it exist. We are not your mother. We do love and respect you though. Enough to challenge you, or your idea, to be even better.
Rules of Cognition:
Make a statement of fact, and the brains within earshot can only do one of two operations: find evidence to refute the statement, or find evidence to support it. This positional thinking pattern is the fuel of innovation killing arguments.
Ask a question, and the brains within earshot can only do one operation: Attempt to resolve the tension of the question by finding an answer. Innovation is the implementation of creative answers to provocative questions.
Now, only after looking at positives, we look for issues / weaknesses / concerns. And here’s where we play the next mental trick on ourselves. We phrase our issues with the idea or person as a solution provoking question. Instead of “The idea won’t work because (insert issue)” you’ll ask “How might we overcome (insert issue).” Instead of “You need to get along with your colleagues better” you’ll ask “What might be things we could do to help you get along with colleagues better?”
The right questions provoke solution finding in the innovative brain. A master of innovation leadership has chosen to develop and refine the skill of asking the right question. As our executive coaching clients have improved this skill with our reminding and prodding, we’ve seen significant improvements in both EQ and I2. The best learn to use question stems like “How might we… What might be all of the… What ideas do you have to… I’m wondering how to…” Each of these stems open the thinking up to the universe of multiple possibilities, and that’s the universe where good answers live.
Finally, it’s time for real improvement thinking. You’ve identified key issues, now turn your collective innovative brains to looking for some workable solutions to those issues.
Our “most requested freebie” has been the “Pitch Template” which is a word document that guides you through building a proposal and using POINt as you build it. If you’d like to take a look at it, contact us and we’ll send it along.
The best leaders we’ve seen do this have learned to offer themselves up with a sincere “I’d love to do some thinking with you about how to overcome the issues we’ve uncovered. When is good for you?” Even in governance groups that we facilitate and coach, we often put a bit of brainstorming time on the agenda as part of the process when task groups bring proposals to the group. The presentation is made, POINt is done on it, and then the presenter is asked: “We’ve got 10 minutes on the agenda to help you think about ways to overcome key issues. Based on those that we’ve raised, is there one that you’d like us to help you think through divergently right now?” In this way, executive governance groups are seen not as a roadblock, but as a collaborator. In this way, more junior employees presenting ideas get excellent training from some of the more experienced minds in the business. From an OD perspective, this is one of those small catalytic mechanisms that can have huge results in the innovation culture of the enterprise.
So. POINt is the point. Praise first, then make it New & Improved!
A Bit of History
POINt is an outgrowth of work by our friends Dianne Foucar-Szocki, Bill Shephard and Roger Firestien. They called it PPC, which stood for Pluses, Potentials, and Concerns. The next step was to call it PPCO, where the O stood for Overcome (the concerns).
Our friend Bob Moore, at Pfizer, was honing his acronym skills and came up with POINt, which we like for its flow and memorability.
Now doesn’t that bring a sense of satisfaction to the innovation history buff deep in your brain?