Last week I was in the car driving and listening to the Jeff Blair Show on Sportsnet 590 The Fan. While discussing the pitching situation with the Toronto Blue Jays he said something that really stuck out to me. Jeff had recently changed his position on whether pitcher Aaron Sanchez should move to the bullpen and he was catching a lot of listener ire for that change.
The thing that caught my ear was the fact that the listener issues were mostly that he had changed his mind, not with whether they agreed with his position (new or old). People simply didn’t like the fact that he had CHANGED his position. Somewhat flippantly Jeff said something that I think is a pretty profound statement on our society and one of the reasons that creativity and innovation are so hard in our organizations:
Changing your mind is generally considered a weakness.
Change = Weakness?
Is that true? Do we really believe that a change of mind is a sign of being WEAK?
The more I think about it the more I think Jeff is bang on the money. He may see it much more, dealing with sports fans and a broad listening populous. But I’ve seen it far too many times in the business world as well. I am likely guilty of attributing weakness to one of my leaders who changed their mind in the past.
If you have studied topics related to innovation and creativity, you know that one of the key needs for a strong creative or innovative process is the ability to fail, the ability to change course, and the willingness to question everything through a strong and rapid feedback loop. It is standard practice to need to change your mind as part of the innovation process. Changing your mind is powerful in innovation.
Society Resists Change
But if we consider that society at large (or at least the sample size that listens to AM Sports Radio is to be believed) behaves as if changing one’s mind is a sign of weakness, then it is no wonder so many organizations struggle to buy into an innovation culture.
We all have examples of the leader who talked about innovation in their speeches, but then punished the resulting failures (no matter the magnitude). We have seen leaders say they believe in creativity and design, but who fall back almost immediately to established processes and procedures.
Perhaps those leaders aren’t weak leaders but are rather following the attitude that exists in society today. Maybe our society needs an innovative kick in the pants to remove the stigma of changing your mind.
Be Willing to Change
In my experience, there is untold value to be found by asking the questions and learning throughout a process. Sometimes it is necessary to take a position (even if it is only to get the conversation started). Through questioning and learning you will gain more information and need to change your mind and change course. If you wait until you have all the information to make a decision you are likely too late. In fact, you may never get to a decision.
Taking a position and making a decision, even with imperfect information, is one of the key hallmarks of a great leader. Similarly, being willing to face the music and change your mind when faced with new information is a staple of great leaders.
We need to kill the view that change = weakness because in my experience:
CHANGE = POWER
Tim Empringham is a passionate advocate for Innovation in organizations of all sizes as a mechanism to drive growth, create uncontested market space, create new customer value, and drive efficiency into the internal organization. His focus is on disruption of thinking and markets through integrative thinking, structured Innovation frameworks, and leadership development of Innovation and Change leaders within the organization.