For those leading innovators, do not restrain your team to a narrow view of the problem, from the resources critical to their success nor from the innovations they devise.
Organizational psychology’s participative practices teach us a very simple management practice known as Access Management. This is the facilitation of logistical and psychological assets into a highly conducive environment for problem solving. Those given the task to innovate can be empowered by leadership that is highly skilled in managing their access to psychological needs and tangible resources critical to achieving radical and incremental innovations.
Access management is the management of five assets:
Access to the Problem
At first this may seem simple and blatantly obvious. However, as managers we tend to delegate responsibilities to our team members, and in doing so we really limit their understanding of the problem to only a portion of the problem, or worse, to only the solution we came up with and specifically delegated to them. A better approach would be to start with an explanation of the problem and then brainstorm with them on how to solve it. Remember, two heads are better than one.
Access to the People
Yet another, at first glance, seemingly obvious need. However, the lesser known failure is caused by team members’ self-imposed assumptions and expectations. Oftentimes people assume they do not have access to key individuals due to their role, proximity or constraints on time. Therefore, they expect that if they share their need aloud then their management is responsible for facilitating their access to the people they need. Good management foresees these needs, initially establishes the communication channels, removes inhibitors and provides their team with direct access to the people they will need.
Access to Information
Nowadays, most information is readily available everywhere and that which is not is intentionally restricted to those deemed responsible enough to handle it. For example, everyone’s compensation is rarely available to everyone in a company. When information secured such as this is needed for innovation purposes management needs access to the problem to truly understand the information needed and then can massage the information in a way that still secures it, yet provides the innovators with the information they need. To further exemplify our compensation example, management could provide geographical pay scales relative to roles along with depictions of employee proportions in each.
Access to Support
When put in a newly collaborative environment some people need encouragement, perceived safety or simply to be drawn out from the psychological bondage perceived from their previous workplace. Potentially highly valuable contributors may perceive they have little to no influence on direction and therefore provide marginal input. Great managers pick up on this distress and the many social queues indicating people need support. They then work with those individuals, encouraging them, reassuring them, emphasizing the value they need from them and ultimately removing the psychological barriers they have erected to inhibit their potential.
Access to the Solution
Access to the solution is the team’s ability to implement a solution that meet’s all the constraints of the problem. This is where the proverbial ball is easily dropped and innovators lose all faith in their leadership. Typically, managers reserve decision making privileges for themselves and simply take their team’s recommendations under advisement, which means they never truly gave their team access to all the constraints of the problem. This is often completely debilitating for a team that has dedicated so much of their effort into solving the problem they were presented and often completely derails all future efforts due to a lack of faith in their leadership. Truly courageous innovation leaders give their team access to the solution by giving full access to all the constraints of the problem, working alongside them in envisioning and building viable solutions and ultimately bringing new innovations directly to customers.
Successful access management can yield highly empowered and unbridled innovation teams. Therefore I ask you, are you courageous enough to relinquish the reins and are you prepared for the innovations they will put in your customers’ hands?