A key habit of the innovative brain is responsibility-taking. As innovation leaders, you and I need to see ourselves as the First Person: the one primarily responsible for turning problems into stories of success. Yes, we often need others to help in the mission of creative problem-solving, but you need to see yourself (as do I) as primarily responsible to make the difference. You and I are responsible to do what we can—as the Prime Movers—to energize the creativity that leads to innovation.
There is an important, albeit subtle, dynamic at play in our minds that can amplify innovation when we make this thought pattern conscious. The challenge is to develop the ability to observe it in ourselves so that when we’re not doing it, we can then pick a more productive thinking pattern to replace the limiting pattern.
What does a world-class football player think as he runs out onto the stadium field? “We need to be a great team in this match/game,” or “I’m going to be the best player I can possibly be, and I know my teammates are going to do the same.” What does a world-class surgeon think walking into the operating room, “We need to save this patient’s life,” or “I’m going to do everything in my power to ensure this patient survives.” What does a firefighter think reporting to the blaze, “We’re going to put out this fire,” or “I need to concentrate on doing my part on this team to put out the fire.” If they’re really world-class, they’re focused on the latter, not the former. (Although the firefighter is focused on the latter—and the ladder.)
The positive examples above show people putting their own responsibility in the center of their mental picture. This is what it looks like to radically take responsibility, and it’s what we see in the most effective — and most mature — people and teams at work around us.
A surface reading of what we’re — heck, I’m — saying here might lead to the thought, “That sounds like a self-centered egomaniac to me, not an innovation leader.” That may be true—unless it’s tempered by some other attitudes. Imagine all the above statements delivered with genuine curiosity and humility. Then imagine a group of people working together attempting to pratice this radical responsibility-taking, recognizing that they have the responsibility to make the team successful…just like everyone else in the group. You’ve just visualized the reality of a powerful group of change agents: an Innovation Team.
Here are some innovation—fostering statements:
- “I need to be a great team member.”
- “Rearranging the letters of ‘teamwork’ gets ‘me at work.’”
- “I have to keep us working together so that we succeed (and it would be great if you did the same thing).”
- “I have to figure out a way to help those folks see how they’re blocking innovation.”
- “I have always let people like that make me angry…up until now.”
That which makes each of us who we are is our thoughts. The more skilled we can become at finding the thoughts that serve us — and then choose to think them — the more mature, wise, and effective we become. My world needs that effectiveness. My workplace needs that effectiveness. My family needs that effectiveness. If your world, workplace, and family need you to do the same work on yourself, then welcome to the team, kindred spirit. If they don’t, then take on the attitude of curiosity and humility, and re-read this article. If that doesn’t work, then you may need a reality check. New & Improved coaches are standing by! Or be really courageous and ask your colleagues for some insight into your wisdom, maturity, and effectiveness…then be prepared to really be humble and curious as a result.