In the course of evangelizing our new software applications which support idea management and innovation (there's the plug!) I've had the opportunity to meet a lot of business people who are very innovative and interested in generating new ideas to further their business objectives. These folks inevitably are some of the brightest, most motivated people I meet - convinced that their ideas and how they get implemented will dramatically change their business. Since I share a real interest in idea generation and management, we usually have great conversations. Then I ask the fatal question.
When can your team start testing our software? You can almost see the fear in their eyes.
Now - many of these folks are very interested in our systems and eventually start beta testing them. But you can see that they are conditioned to admit that it will be difficult to get the IT team on board. They think that the IT team will say "no" to any new technology. They can see the hours of discussions that will be required, the testing and validation of any new system, the concerns raised by IT.
This is not a diatribe against the IT organization - they've got their job to do, and it is often a difficult one. Most IT organizations are overworked and understaffed, and their first bias in many cases is to say "no" to small projects that don't fit into the current corporate policy. But what it made me think about is - what are we conditioned to think in our everyday jobs?
When someone brings up a new idea or proposes a new product, what your first thought? Do you immediately think about the challenges in overcoming the naysayers in the organization, or do you write off ideas as impossible to implement because of all the bureaucracy and red tape? How about when someone approaches your team to participate in a project? What are they conditioned to think?
It seems to me that firms that are productive break down barriers and find ways to get things done rather than build up barriers (real or imaginary). For example, if you want to bring in a new software application, IT needs to review it and test it, but instead of making it difficult, IT should define the time they'll need to review the software and any other information they'll need to make a decision. They should commit to providing you an answer in X days. And consistently meet those numbers. So now you are conditioned to think that IT is on your side and working for you, rather than just interested in saying no.
What expectations do others have when they work with you? Do they anticipate that your team will be a partner and work in a timely fashion with them, or have you conditioned them to expect the worst when it comes to working with your team?
When you boil it all down, businesses are just a collection of people trying to work within a set of processes to accomplish some result. If the processes are poor, we can re-engineer them. When the people in the roles aren't right, we can retrain or replace them. But when the expectations and conditioning we've set get in the way of productive work, it takes time to reset expectations and work well together.