Innovation is a mindset as much as a skill or process, according to author and serial entrepreneur Diana Kander, who addressed the 2023 CUNA HR & Organizational Development Conference Sunday in San Diego.
With that in mind, Kander offers four situations leaders often face and how to reframe these to arrive at innovative solutions.
Don’t ask, what do I need to do? Ask, who do I need to ask?
Kander notes that information today hits us not only at blinding speeds but at a massive scale when compared with previous generations. This creates a great danger of blind spots for anyone looking to solve a problem or create a new solution.
There are things we know, and things we don’t know, but also things we don’t know we don’t know, she says. “These are our blind spots.”
The frequency of these blind spots occurring is increasing. In the 1950s, for example, it would take 50 years for the world’s body of medical knowledge to double. In the 1980s, it took seven years. Today, it takes 73 days, Kander says.
“Everything we know is doubling in a few weeks,” she says. “The same holds true with our workforce, our interactions with consumers, and everything we believe about the world.”
Don’t ask if the solution is a “yes” or “no;” rank it on a scale of one to 10.
Most solutions will fall in the middle range with few falling in the one, two, nine, or 10 ranges, Kander says.
“The problem with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is that we often just say, ‘Why not?’” Kander says. “We end up saying yes to a lot of ones and twos.”
Don’t ask what you should add; ask what you should stop.
Not everything that’s done in the workplace creates value, Kander says. She designates rules, initiatives, and processes that take more time and effort to do than the value they create as “zombies” you should eliminate from the everyday workflow.
“Right now, in your organization, they’re everywhere and they’re preventing you from going fast,” Kander says.
Don’t ask if you’re right; ask, “how would I know if I’m wrong?”
Kander told a story about a marketing team at a mortgage company that sent a cupcake in a glass jar to prospective borrowers as an enticement to complete preapproval paperwork. But when the marketers measured how many of the cupcake eaters actually took out a mortgage compared with a control group, they found no real difference.
“This happens to us all the time,” she says. “We measure the wrong stuff. We measure what makes us feel good. When you start asking how you’d know if you were wrong, you start measuring something completely different.”
Everyone’s job requires an innovative mindset, Kander says. As a refugee from Ukraine who arrived in America at age eight, she relied on her curiosity to drive not only her transition to America but her innovative mindset.
“It’s a lot like any of you on day one of your job,” she says. “We are all innovators on day one. We all want to make things better and we’re all excited. If you embrace the idea that you’re an innovator, you will watch your team and your credit union flourish.”