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Culture of Innovation Fail

GasLanterns.png

(Or, Why People Build New Homes with Fake Gas Lanterns by the Front Door)


If, as the leader of a multi-billion dollar corporation, the director of modest non-profit, the president of a university—or whatever your position—you are responsible for building a culture of innovation you’re probably frustrated with the results.

My home state gives you a pretty good hint why.

Maine is a place nostalgic in nature, evoking lighthouses, Andrew Wyeth paintings, sailboats, colonial architecture, and lobster dinners on the beach at sunset. It all fits comfortably and appealingly into our collective consciousness.

“Maine, the way life should be” is our official state slogan.

Most homes in Maine (with the exception of double-wide trailers, worthy of a later blog post) are old or built to look old. I live in a large, old house built in 1863. So, “What’s wrong with that?” you might ask. Nothing. Except that it costs a fortune to heat with oil, the rooms are relatively small, and maintenance is high. In 1863, they were building houses using 1863 technology and aesthetics. Building has come a long way in 153 years.

Or has it?

I was recently in Carrabassett Valley, Maine, home to the Sugarloaf ski area, and noticed a relatively new “ski” house. It wasn’t built in the traditional ski house vernacular. Instead, it was built to resemble a colonial home from the 1800’s. Complete with fake gas lanterns, non-moveable shutters, and ornamental columns by the front door.

So, what’s going on here—and in innovation resistant organizations? Why do people keep putting fake gas lanterns on your front doors?

Well, it’s biological and cultural. A specific idea of “home” gets hard-wired into our brains at an early age. Images of cozy cottages with white picket fences universally represent comfort, safety and stability. Over time, we connect those images to those feelings through synaptic connections that forge enduring neural pathways. A superhighway is built connecting what we experience and feel to what we believe. The result? We build 2016 houses on a 1863 blueprint. Anything that varies from the norm is actively discouraged or outright rejected.

What’s true for our homes is true for our organizations. We think that we’re making rational, well-reasoned decisions when we are following pre-determined pathways in our brains. We're building on old plans. We do this even when making big decisions with big financial ramifications, such as building a new office or plant, inventing and funding a new business, or adopting potentially life altering policies (think how hard it is for us to move at scale from our oil dependency to renewable energy—even when confronted with overwhelming evidence of the impact climate change on our planet).

The gravity of the status quo seems inescapable. Culture change is tough. It means overcoming the way our brains and cultures conspire against innovations that threaten the way things are.

But breaking the grips of our orthodoxies is not impossible. When our friends and collaborators Linda Yates and Paul Holland decided to build a new home in Portola Valley, they didn’t hesitate to let go of conventions about what a house is or is not. They were boldly set out to build the greenest home in America.

“We've always been passionate about environmental causes,” says Holland. “We wanted to take our family out of the oil-based economy, so there are no oil-based products associated with the house: there is no natural gas, no plastic, no PVC. Everything is powered by renewable energy sources, either solar or ground-source heat exchange.”

Take a peek at this    recent Style magazine article    featuring the Yates-Holland home. No fake gas lanterns there.

Take a peek at this recent Style magazine article featuring the Yates-Holland home. No fake gas lanterns there.

If you really want to lead a culture of innovation, give your people the permission, language, frameworks, tools, and training they’ll need to conquer the current orthodoxies, beliefs, and assumptions responsible for the status quo—and to do work that matters.


www.tahmahlah.com

www.tahmahlah.com

In the spirit of Think Wrong’s Move Fast Practice, Yates and Holland are not proprietary about their home. They’ve created this website to share what they have learned and the resources required to build greener more sustainable homes.


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Too Big to Solve


(Or, The World’s A Mess And We’re Taking It Personally)


Our partner John often gives a talk that begins with many of the big problems facing us as a species:

Hunger, poverty, war, obesity, AIDs, climate change.

It can be pretty daunting. His despair about these issues is real. So is the optimism he, Mike, and I share about mankind’s ability to create ingenious solutions to those challenges.

It might matter less to us if we were not fathers. I hope not. I like to think that we’re conscientious people who care about our fellow man. But, because we are dads, it’s personal.

Our children will inherit the crises made by our and prior right thinking generations. Solving those crises requires stepping outside the status quo—conquering biology and culture—and coming up with answers that might seem crazy or impossible today.

We started Future to put a dent in that particular universe of problems. We’ve sought to work with people who do work that matters. We built our business inspired by—and to help more—leaders like you.

People who are working hard to make the world a better place through their businesses, foundations, government agencies, nonprofits, and schools.

People who are not happy with the way things are.

People who have a vision for a better tomorrow—and the scars to prove how hard they have been battling to create that change.

As a consulting firm run by three partners we've always sought out clients and partners with whom we might be multipliers for good. When we all join forces we make a big difference. But what we can accomplish through our services alone is not enough.

That’s why we’ve written our forthcoming book, Think Wrong: How to Conquer The Status Quo and Do Work That Matters, and why we’ve built the Think Wrong Lab, our cloud-based software.

We want to foster resilient, resourceful leaders and organizations capable of making a difference and blazing bold new paths.

We want to unleash what one of our Think Wrong Heroes, Yvon Chouinard, CEO of Patagonia, might refer to as your inner-juvenile delinquent. He recently told Bloomberg, “...to understand an entrepreneur, you should study a juvenile delinquent. They're both saying: ‘This sucks and I'm going to do it another way.’ You have to want to break the rules and prove that your way works.”

We couldn't agree more. We want to equip that restless delinquent, our children, and their peers with the necessary resources to bring crazy, mind-bending, rule-breaking solutions to life.

If we do our job well, the next time someone proclaims a challenge, “Too big to solve” you’ll have the confidence to reject the way things are, to think wrong, and to leave the world a better place than you found it.


Watch a recent TEDx talk by John. Thinking wrong is the opposite of following accepted orthodoxy. Future has developed an undeniable problem solving system that works across many disciplines and levels of difficulty. It's the best of design thinking married with positive change and impact.


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