Interview with Tamara Ghandour, author of Innovation is Everybody’s Business
Posted 2 years ago
Tamara Ghandour used to believe that innovation was the domain of a select few, exclusive to certain industries, or relegated to a specific job role. But, as Tamara discovered in her 25 years of work and research, everybody has the capacity to innovate. It’s a person’s unique innovation style, (which can be assessed and channeled), that can transform inertia into innovation. As organisations face increasing pressure to innovate, exactly how to make it happen remains a mystery to many. Tamara’s book will resonate with those who recognise that being more innovative is their ticket to being indispensable, and with leaders under pressure to build a culture of innovation without knowing how.
What was the impetus behind writing this book? What problem did you observe that made you feel the book was needed?
I wrote Innovation is Everybody’s Business because I wanted to give everyday people, the ones doing the work at all levels of an organization, the framework and tools to become Everyday Innovators. It’s an ability we all have, and for most of it just requires a new understanding of our own innate skills and the framework to bring it to life. At an individual level being an innovator helps you grow your value, results, and satisfaction in your work. At the team level, it helps build high-performing teams of innovators that collaborate and win. At the organizational level, human-centered innovation is your greatest competitive advantage in a crowded, ever-changing marketplace.
Why is it important for individuals to determine their own unique innovation style?
The trap so many of us fall into is believing that innovation has to look and feel a certain way. You see someone on the cover of a magazine with the title “disruptor,” or a leader at work you admire and you mimic them – their morning routine, their behaviors, and their actions. But it doesn’t work, only validating that innovation is hard, exhausting, and not for me, or my team. But, the reason you failed at unlocking innovation isn’t that you “don’t have a creative bone in your body,” it’s because you tried to innovate in a way that doesn’t work for you. In my twenty-five years of work in the innovation field, and in combining neuroscience, behavioral psychology and change principals, I discovered one simple truth: being innovative is universal, we all do it. However, how we innovate is unique to each of us. We each have what I call, an Everyday Innovator™ style, that encompasses your natural, powerful and unique innovation talents. Understanding how you innovate, your style of innovation, is your gateway to performing at your peak, igniting innovation and having a strong and valued voice in the world. You’ll never realize your full innovator potential trying to mimic someone else; in fact, you’ll only sabotage your efforts. What makes you innovative is what makes you unique, and that is your highest value.
Each team also has its own style of innovation that is a culmination of all the innovator styles combined. That collective style can be a team’s greatest advantage if understood and leveraged.
“The trap so many of us fall into is believing that innovation has to look and feel
a certain way…however, how we innovate is unique to each of us.”
How can people with very different innovation styles work together effectively?
The foundation to building a high-performing team of Everyday Innovators is recognition. It’s recognising the diversity of thinking in the room. Once you have that recognition, you begin to see how each person contributes to the greater whole. The entire team understands how to leverage each other’s varying strengths. This leads to stronger, more meaningful work and outcomes. Ideas that come from birds of a feather tend to die, but ideas based on diversity of thinking thrive. A deep recognition and understanding of each other’s styles, how each person adds value, and causes positive friction builds real connect, collaboration, and innovation.
“Ideas that come from birds of a feather tend to die, but ideas based on diversity of thinking thrive.”
What regular routines or behaviours can individuals adopt to improve their capacity for innovation?
The brain, while not technically a muscle, in this way acts like one. The more you exercise it and give it proper fuel, the stronger it gets. The less you do, the weaker it gets. This is especially true for your ability to innovate. If you want to build those innovation muscles, you’ve got to exercise your mind and give it creative fuel daily. I suggest starting your day with a 5-minute innovation activity that warms up your innovation muscles. It can be as simple as mind mapping or writing a list of ideas, to asking disruptive questions that get your mind thinking differently. The key here is to exercise it intentionally and consistently. At the organizational level, it’s essential to avoid “launch abandon.” This means making innovation a priority beyond the annual meeting by giving your teams the environment and tools to build their innovation muscles and apply them daily.
What industries do you think need innovation (and fresh ideas) the most right now?
We are living in unprecedented times where almost every industry has experienced a shake-up of some kind. With that, some of those shake-ups have also exposed the archaic and underperforming structures that must change in certain industries. To me, those industries include education, healthcare, and banking. In fact, I’d argue that while the past two years have been particularly challenging for those industries, they also have more opportunities to innovate than ever before. In fact, if they don’t innovate they’ll find themselves on the quick path to irrelevancy. I just hope they take advantage of the times we are in and do something!
In your opinion, does innovation require a different sort of leadership? What leadership traits or skills best enable innovation to flourish?
Leading innovation requires three critical skills. First, the ability to recognize that innovation comes in all shapes and sizes. Most leaders miss major opportunities to move their teams and business forward because they don’t recognize the innovative idea right in front of them. It doesn’t look like their style of innovation so they pass right over it. Then team frustration goes up and engagement goes down because none of their innovative ideas are realized. Second, as a leader, you must be able to constantly ask yourself and your team different questions. Quality of questions equals quality of answers. Leaders must learn the art of asking better questions. The changing world we live in requires it. If you ask the same questions, you get the same answers, and you are still solving yesterday’s problems. Solving yesterday’s problems doesn’t move the needle forward. And thirdly, leaders looking to foster a culture of innovation need to learn to reward behaviors, not outcomes. Reward the behaviors that drive innovation in your team and the positive outcomes will follow. On my team we reward respectful disagreement and collaboration, among others, because we know those behaviors foster innovative ideas and people.
“If you ask the same questions, you get the same answers, and you are still solving yesterday’s problems.
Solving yesterday’s problems doesn’t move the needle forward.”
What is something every organisation can do today to foster an innovative culture in their workforce?
In order to compete and win, organizations must innovate across their entire business. This takes more than a one-time initiative or retreat. Instead, understand and unlock the diversity of thinking and innovation in your people. Have your teams take the research-based, proprietary Innovation Quotient Edge™ assessment in the book so that each person can realize and bring their innovation strengths to work daily. When you focus on the human side, you can ignite, scale and sustain innovation. You’ll discover that your people bring their best self to work, have more meaningful collaboration and begin to find innovative and lasting ways to solve your stickiest challenges and discover opportunities hiding in plain sight. It’s a major win at the individual, team and organizational level.
What did you learn in the process of writing this book?
I learned so much while writing this book. On a personal level, I learned to trust myself and my vision. Many “experts” told me to add in more of the traditional innovation stories about people like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. Don’t get me wrong, I admire them both greatly but I wanted to write a book that is a celebration of the everyday person. I wanted to write a book that gives people at all levels and in all industries, the framework and tools to unlock their highest value.
Second, I realized how many stories of everyday innovation are out there if you just ask people. I realized that the everyday person is the most extraordinary person, and their stories deserve to be heard. Your story deserves to be heard.
You can find Tamara on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/innovationtamaraghandour/ and you can find out more about the book (and order your copy) from Amazon and other great bookstores.