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Remember When we used to turn on a tap?

Creativity and innovation doesn't
necessarily ignore the evidence base
of what’s worked before - but it
challenges it!

I’ve just been in Sydney for 3 days of levelling up with a bunch of people who hurt my brain. Really - they constantly challenge me to up my thinking, rethink my assumptions and unlearn and relearn a whole range of things.

And I find when I am with them inspiration for levelling up comes from the most random of places. We have brilliant speakers, mind bending thinking activities and time to reflect and discuss. But sometimes the most insight then happens in the bathroom……

A colleague and I walked up to the washbasins at the same time and laughed at our clumsy attempts to get the tap going. Have you noticed that lately? It’s like the tap industry held a convention of ‘let’s innovate the taps’ and went crazy. There are so many ways to get the water going these days. We used to 'turn the tap on'. Now we push the tap on, pull the tap on, make tai-chi movements under a sensor to get the tap to work. It’s easy to look like a total doofus in front of a very large mirror!

It reminded me of the days when coffee pod machines were brand new in conference venues. It was always a laugh to see groups experiment with how they worked, the people in line peering over shoulders to watch how to do it. It didn’t take long, but then our new normal arrived and we soon got a bit antsy if the coffee pods are not our preferred brand, or there's no barista there making us fresh coffees!
Trying new things, innovating on what is 'tried and true', challenging the ’that’s the way we do things around here’ (shock, horror - you mean iterating the evidence base?) is what we should be all about. Why? Because we should always be reflecting on whether we are getting the outcomes we’re after the way that we are doing things. The world is complex and changing by the moment.  We should be responding to that change. We need to respond to the needs of our clients, our students, our shareholders, the community - whoever we serve.  This is the essence of a strong learning culture and organisation. Yet many of the people we lead feel it is scary, a huge ‘change' rather than a tweak, a manoeuvre, a sashay that shifts something. 
IDEO, the global design company has done quantitative research on projects with companies over a decade.  They found that many people stop at three ideas when iterating and finding solutions to problems, yet those who go for at least 5 iterations or ideas are 50% more likely to launch successfully.

One of my amazing mentors, Kieran Flanagan, Chief Creative Officer for The Impossible Institute, says, as she delivers her keynote speeches to conferences full of people eager to be more innovative, ‘I’m not more creative than you - I just work harder.’ Keiran and her business partner Dan Gregory create a huge amount of ideas by themselves first around a concept or problem before they come to the table together on them. Then what they co-create together is quite often mind-blowing! (Check out their latest book: Forever Skills)

IDEOs findings show that the chances of a failed launch decreased by 16.67% when teams members felt comfortable to challenge the status quo. My own Buzz Diagnostic, which tracks collaborative learning cultures and has had over 4000 participants to date finds the statement: 'I feel confident to challenge our assumptions and beliefs’ sitting on the bottom of the rankings in terms of ‘very like us’ as a team. And yet Professor Amy Edmondson of Harvard Business School’s research shows that to do this psychological safety is key to high performance. 
How often do we code new things as a huge change rather than simply responding to learning - what’s working and what is not? What needs a nudge and what needs a re-write? What needs revolution, what needs evolution? What just needs some new thinking? 
Where is it that we need to challenge the status quo - either a little or a lot?
Sometimes it's just doing a tai chi rather than the flick of the wrist.

What’s a tweak you want to lead in your organisation? Are you ready to level up the evidence base?