What To Do When Your Team Gets Stuck

When Teams Get Stuck

Why Teams Get Stuck

Jeff DeGraff is known as the Dean of Innovation. He’s a professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and he has worked with some of the biggest global corporations ranging from Apple to GE to Coca-Cola.

I have personally called Jeff to help brainstorm issues and help jumpstart creativity. One of the many things I learned from Jeff was that innovation does not happen in the solitude of a eureka moment. It happens more often in teams.

So, what happens when a team gets stuck? I asked the Dean of Innovation to share his thoughts on why teams get stuck and what to do about it.

 

“Innovation is created as a result of constructive conflict.” -Jeff DeGraff

 

3 Common Reasons Teams Get Stuck

Organizations and teams alike get stuck for a wide variety of reasons, but there are three that are most common: 1). They have chosen the wrong people to lead the way 2). They spend too long in the planning cycle, and 3). They miss the key handoffs and get out of sequence.

Let’s take a look at how to resolve these issues:

 

1.They have chosen the wrong people to lead the way. 

Innovation project teams are like baseball teams. You need lots of different players to play different positions at different times. Start by tinkering with your lineup. Move folks around. Trade for better players and don’t be afraid to cut some players. Innovation teams are often led by command and control project leaders who have spent their careers eliminating variation; not creating it. Make the tough decision to move them along. Watch the movie Moneyball a few times, and you will get the point.

How Great Companies Fuel Innovation Through Diversity

Building Diverse Teams

The Power of Diversity

I’m a passionate believer in diverse teams. Throughout my life and career, I have seen the benefits from multiple perspectives examining a problem together. If everyone thinks exactly the same way, with the same background, you end up with a narrow solution. A lack of diversity increases the likelihood of strategic blind spots.

 

“If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.” –J.F.K.

 

That’s why I read with great interest David Livermore’s new book, Driven by Difference: How Great Companies Fuel Innovation Through Diversity. David Livermore has written ten books on global leadership and cultural intelligence. He is president of the Cultural Intelligence Center and a visiting scholar at Nanyang Business School in Singapore.

 

“A lack of diversity increases the likelihood of strategic blind spots.” -Skip Prichard

 

The Goal of Diversity is Not Enough

In your book, you argue that diversity, as a goal, is not good enough. Would you elaborate on this?

I applaud any effort to hire a more diverse workforce. But if that’s all you do, you set everyone up for failure. “Different” perspectives, values, and strategies for getting work done easily lead to misunderstanding, frustration, and gridlock. Diversity needs to be managed with a culturally intelligent strategy for how to effectively use the diverse perspectives to drive innovation and improve employee engagement.

 

“The more diverse the team, the less likely participants will offer their input and perspectives.” –David Livermore

 

The Link Between Innovation and Diversity

You say that diversity by itself does not ensure innovation, but it does when combined with high CQ. What is CQ? What’s the link between innovation and diversity? 

Driven by DifferenceCQ, or cultural intelligence, is the capability to work effectively with people from different cultural backgrounds. It’s measured using a CQ Assessment, which predicts how effectively one will work in situations characterized by cultural diversity.

Our research finds that diverse teams comprised of individuals with low CQ underperform homogenous teams with low CQ. However, diverse teams comprised of individuals with high CQ outperform homogenous teams on several measurements including innovation.

Therefore, CQ becomes the moderating link between diversity and innovation. With higher levels of cultural intelligence, team members can effectively retain and use the differences among them that enhance creativity while minimizing the differences that create interference.

 

“Distraction is one of the biggest roadblocks to innovation.” –David Livermore

 

Prevent Diversity Fatigue

What’s diversity fatigue and how do companies prevent it?

Diversity fatigue is how I refer to the growing weariness felt by many staff when they hear they have to go through diversity training. Even individuals from underrepresented groups often place little hope or interest in diversity initiatives in the workplace. Research recently cited in the Harvard Business Review found that diversity programs did little to convince ethnic minorities that companies would treat them any more fairly than companies without the programs.

 

“The culturally intelligent are aware of how cultural differences influence the way team members approach a task.” –David Livermore

 

There are a variety of factors that contribute to diversity fatigue, several of which I explore more fully at the beginning of Driven by Difference. But the key to addressing this is for companies to take a more strategic approach to diversity. They need to address diversity the way they address other business opportunities and challenges—assess the situation, create a strategy, and form metrics for measuring accountability. If profits are slipping, companies don’t plan a “Profits Slipping Awareness Day” and then hope the awareness translates into better returns. It’s all hands on deck with everyone accountable. And then managers and teams need to be equipped with the skills to effectively use their differences to drive innovation.

 

“Smart, empowered teams are the best way to come up with successful products.” –David Livermore

 

In one chapter, you talk about focus and how the more personalities and cultures you have working together, the easier it is to lose focus. What’s the best way to experience the benefits of diverse thinking while also keeping focus?

It comes from clearly defining the goal (a key to retaining focus) while asking your diverse colleagues how they understand the goal. The goal may seem straightforward, such as reducing costs or improving efficiencies. However, the assumptions about how to most effectively reduce cost may be strongly influenced by one’s cultural values and assumptions. Focus comes from not quickly moving beyond the seemingly basic task of clarifying expectations and instead, using a diversity of expectations to more successfully achieve more innovative outcomes.

 

“Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.” –Malcolm Forbes

 

How to Build Trust With Diverse Colleagues

The Secret Weapon That Solves Your Toughest Sales Challenges

Secret Weapon

Dealstorming 

Is it possible to increase innovation in sales and achieve higher growth?

How can diverse perspectives increase your sales results?

Is there a consistent way to increase the likelihood of closing your biggest deals?

Does your organization have a high-potential opportunity?

 

Last year, I was presenting at a conference in Africa. The theme of the conference was based on an African proverb:

 

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” –African Proverb

 

That night, as I enjoyed a memorable dinner with the unique, powerful sound of an African choir ringing in my ears, I reflected on this proverb. Its wisdom struck me in a new way at a deep level. So many major corporate initiatives are stymied because one person wants to act alone. The motivation to act alone may be rooted in the idea of a hero, or it may be simply because someone wants to demonstrate personal accountability.

Still, going farther requires collaboration.

 

“The best sales-driven companies have developed the habit of conscious collaboration.” –Tim Sanders

 

Debunking Creativity Myths

Recent studies on innovation and creativity have debunked the myth that innovation happens in the eureka moment. I’ve interviewed numerous experts who tell me creativity happens more in teams than alone.

And so, when I read Tim Sander’s new book Dealstorming: The Secret Weapon That Can Solve Your Toughest Sales Challenges, I found myself smiling as I saw these truths eloquently memorialized and backed up with research and experience.

Dealstorming: The Secret Weapon That Can Solve Your Toughest Sales Challenges is a monumental book not only for sales leaders but also for all corporate leaders. Whether saving, reclaiming, or winning new business, the techniques Tim shares are proven and actionable. Every organization wants to improve its results, and this is the best blueprint for achieving higher growth that I’ve seen in years.

But, beyond the dealstorm, the techniques in this book teach collaborative practices. The relationships built in this process do not stop with the sale, but continue, fostering a sense of purpose well beyond the deal.

I’m convinced that the techniques in Dealstorming will help you close more business, build better relationships, and increase your organization’s creativity.

 

“Innovating is not a way of doing things; it’s a mode of thinking.” –Tim Sanders

 

How to Win the Complex Sale 

Many people think that the sales process is impossible to define and one where you just go with your gut. In your new book, Dealstorming: The Secret Weapon That Can Solve Your Toughest Sales Challenges, you reveal that the sales process is just the opposite: a structured, repeatable process any team can use to win the large, complex sale. What experience and research led you to this conclusion?

Over my 30+ year sales career, I’ve noticed that despite the sharpest of perspectives, without a process you get a mess. The Funnel Activity Management System has been in place for decades, where managers focus on key metrics like cold calls or closing ratios in order to produce a predictable level of sales. Or so one might think.

Throughout that process, the rep used his or her gut feeling to determine which product to pitch, how hard to close and when to move on. But today, that system is necessary, but no longer sufficient for landing high quality sales.

Around the turn of the 21st century, I began to develop the sales collaboration process I call Dealstorming. At Yahoo, while leading the ValueLab and then serving as Chief Solutions Officer, I had the opportunity to participate in 40+ strategic selling situations, where theories were tested and then measured in dollars and cents. Over the last decade, I’ve refined this process through my consultancy, where we’ve participated in 60+ dealstorms at a variety of business-to-business companies. The range of experiences has helped me create a scalable process where managers could leverage a few successful Dealstorms to train the Account Executive on how to run their own.

In writing this book, I have interviewed 200+ sales leaders to understand how they’ve approached problem solving at the deal level, and what works in today’s global-social-mobile world. Collectively, all of these experiences have produced a way of innovating at the deal level that will work for small businesses and enterprises alike. Sometimes the ‘storms will be terrific trios and in other cases, an alliance of many.

 

Copyright Tim Sanders. Used by Permission Copyright Tim Sanders. Used by Permission

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Know the 4 Levels of the Sale

33 Innovation Quotes to Inspire Your Next Idea

Businessman with illuminated light bulb concept for idea, innovation and inspiration

The Power of Innovation

There’s no telling where your next idea will come from. One of the many reasons I love to share quotes is that they often inspire us or cause us to think differently. Here are some quotes about innovation for the next time you need a spark.

 

“Innovation is taking two things that already exist and putting them together in a new way.” –Tom Freston

 

“What good is an idea if it remains an idea? Try. Experiment. Iterate. Fail. Try again. Change the world.” – Simon Sinek

 

“Innovation is created as a result of constructive conflict.” -Jeff DeGraff

 

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” –Steve Jobs

 

“Finding opportunity is a matter of believing it’s there.” –Barbara Corcoran

 

“There’s a way to do it better—find it.” –Thomas Edison

 

“Innovation comes from saying NO to 1,000 things.” –Steve Jobs

 

“Vision is the art of seeing the invisible.” –Jonathan Swift

 

“Innovation only survives when people believe in their own ideas.” –Levo League

 

“Innovation is the central issue in economic prosperity.” –Michael Porter

 

“It always seems impossible until it is done.” –Nelson Mandela

 

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” –Maya Angelou

 

“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” –Henry David Thoreau

 

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

 

“If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” –Albert Einstein

 

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” –Socrates

 

“Exploration is the engine that drives innovation. Innovation drives economic growth. So let’s all go exploring.” –Edith Widder

 

“When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.” –Chinese Proverb

 

“The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all what the world needs most are dreamers that do.” –Sarah Ban Breathnach

Put the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work for You

Disrupt Yourself

Disrupt Yourself

Companies think about it all the time. Innovation. A new idea, one that will catapult the organization to the top.

Individuals don’t always think about the power of disruption and innovation to reinvent themselves in the same way.

 

“Disrupting yourself is critical to avoiding stagnation.” -Whitney Johnson

 

Whitney Johnson is one of the world’s leading management thinkers and is a former an award-winning Wall Street equity analyst. Whitney’s latest book, Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disrupt Innovation to Work, is all about putting the power of disruptive innovation to work on you.

If you want to be mediocre, this is not the book for you. But, if you’re daring, put the power of disruptive innovation to work on your own career.

Whitney recently shared with me some of the highlights from her book and research:

 

7 Variables to Mastery

 

7 Variables to Mastery

1: Take the right risks

2: Play to your distinctive strengths

3: Embrace constraints

4: Battle entitlement

5: Step back to grow

6: Give failure its due

7: Be discovery driven

 

 

You’ve identified 7 variables to move from gaining competence, confidence, and finally, mastery.  Is there one that most people struggle with?

One of the hardest is entitlement, the belief that ‘I exist therefore I am entitled’.  Sadly, I see it in myself all the time.  It comes in many guises, like cultural entitlement.  We all need to feel that we belong.  A sense of belonging gives us the confidence we need to try something new.  But as we begin to see the fruits of taking the right kinds of risks and playing to our strengths, it’s easy to start believing ‘this is the way things should and will always be’.  The nanosecond we start believing this, we stop learning.  So that right when you are feeling the most competent, and have the confidence to try something new, you begin to stagnate, potentially even backsliding.  If you want to enjoy the hypergrowth of disruption, of moving forward not back, battle entitlement.

Copyright Whitney Johnson. Used by permission. Copyright Whitney Johnson. Used by permission.


Identify Your Distinctive Strengths

I have always been a fan of working on strengths. How do you identify your distinctive strengths?

It’s easy to identify your distinctive strengths, after the fact, because they are what make you a fish out of water.  It’s figuring out your strengths in the first place.  So here’s a clue:  What compliment do you habitually dismiss?  You’ve heard it so many times that you are bored.  Or you wonder why they are complimenting you because it is as natural as breathing. Malcolm Forbes said, “People tend to undervalue what they are, and overvalue what they aren’t.” Take note of that compliment.  It’s likely a strength.  Then find ways to apply or use that strength where others are not.

 

“A distinctive strength is something that you do well that others within your sphere don’t.” -Whitney Johnson

 

Like Jayne Juvan, a partner at a law firm in Cleveland.  As a third year associate, she started blogging. There was some political flak.  Law firms tend to be conservative.  The partners didn’t see the opportunity.  But she didn’t back off.  Good thing. When the economy came crashing down in 2007, she sidestepped layoffs because she’d landed clients on social media.  She also had a compelling case to make when she was up for partner.  Learning the law was her pay-to-play skill, social media her distinctive strength.

 

“Beware the undertow of the status quo.” -Whitney Johnson

 

When to Make Your Move