Saturday, April 9, 2011

Politics Kill Innovation - Interest Issues

After poor influence and risk aversion comes the next reason politics kills innovation...Interests Issues.  If you read my earlier post on what skills are critical to be a great innovator, you will see one of the key skills is negotiation.  I had the pleasure of holding a job early in my career where I got do create, do and manage a lot of deals (a topic for another time) particularly licensing agreements.  During what I consider one of the most critical times of learning during my journey to change agent, I received both formal and informal training around principled negotiation. In my opinion, negotiation is a science more than an art.  Everyone likes to say they know how to negotiate, but after learning on the job AND learning the actual process for negotiating I started to see the value everywhere I looked.  The first key step in principled negotiation centers around the concept of interests (may be redundant for many).  That being said, understanding interests is one of the most important lessons.  To align all (using operational definitions...another key innovation skill) interests in my view are taking the time to understand what your partner wants and is simply interested in.  The thing about interests is that sometimes they are overt (explicitly said) and other times they are implicit (not really told to you).  In any negotiation, aligning your interests with your partners is how deals happen.  When it comes to innovating, however, using this principle to help you get your ideas across is the secret sauce to getting things going and maintaining one's momentum throughout the process.  Interests change as innovation's are born, grow and thrive, so being aware of this at all times is critical and if you don't will lead to problems throughout the innovation lifecycle

How do interest issues get in the way?

They don't care about it:  If those around you don't care about your innovative ideas, they their interests are not your interests and thus they won't support what you are doing.  The ebb and flow of people's interests need to align and if people don't care about what you are doing you can't expect the to support your efforts. 
They don't have the same agenda and won't work with you.  Does this mean they will work hard to stop you in your tracks? Maybe it depends on how much their interest mesh with yours.  When they don't care about it they don't care about you.

They don't have the same agenda:  The politics in your office is about agenda and what each of us want to accomplish.  If those around you don't have an agenda aligned with yours they can often come out against it strongly because they may be fighting for the same resources dollars or simply will do whatever it takes to see you fail.  Not have the same agenda can be deadly because it can bring the worst behavior out in others around you.  If your agenda is to collaborate for instance and some nearby wants to build an empire, this two personal agenda are like gas near a fire.  The collaborative agenda is meant to empower while the empire agenda is meant to control.  How can they go together?  How will they both survive.  You can be doing "good" for the organization, but those who seek to do evil can be doing something much more detrimental.  Either way, it is this type of political misalignment that stops great ideas cold.

They don't have the capacity to support it:  Sometimes people around you can understand your interests, but they simply don't have the time or resources AT THAT MOMENT to help you.  This is important to recognize because if you don't understand this it can lead to aggravating a relationship.  Knowing that this is happening kills your opportunity but it also is an opportunity.  If people can't support it because of capacity you simply need to find another way around the situation or be patient (a virtue of success to be discussed)

They don't see the value versus other work:   Very similar to capacity, seeing the value of your idea versus their other work is another way to lose ground in your quest to get things new implemented.  In this case, however, you have the power to explain the value.  Unfortunately, many times we as innovators communicate value in different ways than those who "manage" the store.  So you better brush up on why those who may have influence can see the value versus the other work they do.

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