We have a lot of innovators, but do we need more people who can execute their ideas? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Contrary to what many think, companies can innovate and execute at the same time.
In fact, it's necessary. My team at Morphic Therapeutic depends heavily on operating this way - being innovative in our research, while simultaneously completing highly methodical timelines in development.
The problem is, employees can't produce new, unique ideas and then immediately lay out the systematic, rigorous process to see them through.
That's because innovation and execution require completely different mindsets. And cultivating and sustaining those mindsets demands unique environments. This is especially critical in small companies, where employees need to be dynamic all-around athletes.
The good news is you can create environments that encourage people to be innovative and effective.
Here are important factors to keep in mind:
Understand each mindset serves a distinct purpose.
Innovation is about being open-minded, flexible, and creative. Execution is about responsibility, focus, and grit.
When asking employees to do both, you have to realize people can't easily and rapidly switch back and forth between the two different mindsets. Residue from one mindset inevitably seeps into the other.
Think back to a brainstorming meeting you've attended. You likely spent a majority of the time talking about possibilities and tacking ideas onto a wall--some tangible, some ridiculous. But have you ever been asked to take the best idea and create a step-by-step plan for accomplishing it right then and there? That's a difficult shift to make.
Creativity is freeing while execution is siloed. And that's not a switch many people can flip on demand. So you have to create conditions that allow them to do so.
Give people time and context to switch back and forth.
What your employees ultimately need is this: one time and place for creative thinking and another for accomplishing tasks.
Changing environments like this has been proven to encourage changes in habits and ability. In 1993, a famous study by Lee N. Robins of Washington University found that among the thousands of veterans returning home from the Vietnam war with heroin or opiate addictions, to the drugs after they came back home. For those who fell back into drug use, the addictions were usually brief.
What the study also found was this: The remarkably low rate of relapse owed its success not to treatment centers but to a change in the soldiers' environments. One reason people leaving treatment centers today have trouble shaking their addictions is because they often return to the same spaces and triggers which led to them to addiction in the first place. But with Vietnam veterans, the triggers that led to their initial drug use were on the other side of the world. Their new environments encouraged a completely separate behavior and resilience.
This taught me that changes in environment can have powerful effects, whether conscious or subconscious. And as the leader of a company, you have the ability to empower your employees to think and operate in unique ways. You just need to create the correct type of environment.
One way to do this is to choose different meeting spaces for innovation and execution. At Morphic, I have been experimenting with separating creativity and operacy into different meetings. Our hope is to better equip our employees with the environment they need to innovate and expand their thinking--and another to execute when they need to be efficient and effective.
Early signs suggest a lot of promise to this approach.
Know anybody can create these spaces to encourage these different mindsets.
People just do not spend enough time thinking about their environments, even though they are constantly getting signals from their surroundings.
Your environment plays a huge role in your behavior, conscious or otherwise. There is a on this. And you can take advantage of it by creating specialized environments.
I've found that for innovation and execution, the environments only need to be distinct by time. It's all about identifying what sort of space works best for your company's unique needs and then dedicating resources to create them.
You simply need to understand which mindset you're aiming to cultivate.
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