I was recently thinking about a UPS commercial where two consultants are telling a CEO everything they believe he should do to improve his company, such as building the supply chain and moving assembly overseas. When the CEO says to the consultants, “Great, do it!” the consultants are extremely confused and respond, “We don’t actually do what we propose. We just propose it.”
This is the trap that many leaders can get themselves into when trying to keep up in this rapidly changing world. There are so many theorists out there, especially in today’s knowledge economy, and you can easily drown in a sea of inaction. This is why it’s imperative you find thinkers who have strong theoretical ideas and practical application.
Anyone who knows me knows that my thoughts are often future-focused. I love keeping up and learning about innovation, especially when it comes to technology. To stay up to date with the latest innovations, I consciously surround myself with intelligent young people. I seek out young professionals who are subject-matter experts and open myself up to learn from them.
As leaders, we can become too prideful and close-minded to the thought that a younger person can or should teach us. The truth is that you can learn from anybody, and you should not lose the opportunity to do so out of pride. It was through the incredible young leaders that I have surrounded myself with that I first learned about cryptocurrency and Web 3.0 before it became a popularized topic.
If you are not a natural futurist who likes to stay on top of change, you should surround yourself with a great council of people to help you. Ensure that every person on that council can bring a new perspective to the changes and new ideas happening in the world and in your organization. Also, create space on that council for people to express those perspectives and ideas in a way that will generate the best outcomes.
I am the type of person that loves to speak passionately about future possibilities. If people around me immediately shut those ideas down or say none of it is possible, I quickly become discouraged. When giving or receiving ideas, be cognisant of how the other members of your team best process new ideas.
It is vital to keep in mind that the majority of new ideas do not blossom into great success. This doesn’t mean you should stop searching for innovation, talking about new ideas, or even putting them into action. Visionary leaders are passionate about new ideas, and it is never a wasted exercise. Sometimes, those new ideas come back around when the culture or your organization is ready for it.
Innovation is only wasted if you move on it too fast. As a strategist, I have had to learn to listen and temper my expectations when I become excited about a new idea or innovation. Futurists want everything to happen immediately, but the organization does not have the capacity to put everything into action at once. Do not squash an idea too soon, but learn not to activate an idea faster than your team is ready for.
You can adopt habits into your personal life to learn and garner new ideas. Personally, I’ve changed my habits around reading books. On Kindle, every book usually has a “popular highlights” section of the quotes many people liked throughout the book; I go through those first. If a highlight intrigues me, I read the chapter the highlight is in. If I like that chapter, I return to the table of contents and try to understand the structure and narrative the author is laying out. Then, I begin with the introduction, which lays out the book’s purpose. If I am still interested, I will actually start reading, but I am willing to leave a book unfinished if I stop gaining value from it.
I have all these steps because there is so much content being created daily, and it’s impossible to engage with it all. I had to learn what is actually worth my time. I used to read books from cover to cover, but that is no longer effective for me. There are so many leadership books out there, and only 1 out of 10 end up being the kind you read cover to cover.
I hope some of these tactics aid you in keeping up with all the exciting ideas, innovations, and writings in today’s world. I also encourage you to try these out and see what works for you and what doesn’t. Every leader must build their own structures to engage with innovation.