In my last post on the Inc. 5000 Conference I talked about the overwhelming push from leading thinkers and successful entrepreneurs on the power of people to grow businesses, advance to new levels of sophistication and market share and make a difference in the world. Every person I spoke to reaffirmed the “people power” aspect as a foundational element of their organization’s success, along with a clear mission, grit and determination and an overwhelming ability to see opportunity in places that others miss (or don’t want to go).
Another key theme that I heard is what I’m calling the need to “Diversify the Inputs.” This sounds somewhat technical but really I see it as a summation of what many said during the conference—diversity creates better solutions. Diverse people, in terms of background, skill sets, experience, approach, goal orientation, thinking style, communication approach and world view, are one vital input and are the first step in creating a fully diverse set of inputs.
Caterina Fake (@caterina) of Flickr, actually used a very similar model to what we espouse at Emergenetics (albeit with a competitive model which shall not be named…ha!) and cleverly put it as the marriage of peanut butter and jelly. The perfect sandwich is a metaphor for the perfect leadership style—one that encompasses the left and right brain approach. Successful leaders and entrepreneurs should balance the way that they view their work and grow their companies by recognizing a need for visionary intuitive thinking that can actually be implemented. This left brain, right brain dichotomy is a key input that directly relates to optimized output.
How much more effective would your brainstorming and ideation sessions be if they were clearly monitored and built upon a step-by-step checklist for implementation, complete with dates, times, roles and responsibilities and metrics?
Conversely, how much more effective could your organizational workflow chart be if you stepped into every person’s shoes on it and asked a question like “What could I possibly be doing in this position that I cannot do now?” or “What out-of-the-box idea could transform my job?” or “What would I do differently if I were in another department?”
The juxtaposition of structure and intuition can be powerful. I’d advocate going a step further and not only taking this approach, but actively seeking out people who bring a different perspective. Do it in a challenging way—ask them to come at your approach.
Let’s say you’re a socially-preferenced thinker that enjoys gregarious teamwork and seeks amiability and cohesion (to use Caterina’s example, let’s call this Chunky Peanut butter – although notice I added in behavioral traits as well; these are critical to navigating any successful push toward diverse inputs). Find an analytical, data-seeking, process-oriented person who doesn’t want to necessarily bring in big groups to solve problems and is comfortable driving an idea home. Have that person bring a different perspective.
The results, while not always easy and smooth, will inevitably bring new and broader insights that anything that one person or one perspective would have yielded.
Entrepreneurship ain’t easy…so embrace the challenge (literally in this case).