[00:00] Ed: Got a fun story. Here a quick one. A colleague of mine ran this kind of incubator program over a series of several months, but it started with, hey, everybody comes in. Everybody comes in, works on ideas. But at some point, they needed to winnow down the number of ideas. So they kept encouraging people to jump to different teams until a certain amount of teams had critical math. Now, what ended up happening is there were a few people who didn’t jump. They stayed as single, working on their idea. And my colleague forcibly put them on a team together, said like, hey, your ideas are kind of similar. You’re on a team together. You’re on a team together. And then those projects continued through to the end. Then at the end, there were some projects that had notably better outcomes than the others. It happened to be those teams that she randomly forced that you have to work together that stood out as outliers from the others.
[01:04] Innovation Metrics Podcast Intro: Welcome to the Innovation Metrics podcast, where we bring you the latest on innovation management. We provide insights on how to measure innovation, innovation accounting, and managing the uncertain process of developing new, sustainable, and profitable business models. You can find links to the main topics covered in this episode and information about the guests and hosts in the show notes or go to our blog on www.innovationmetrics co. Your host is Elijah Eilert.
[01:35] Elijah: Hello, everybody. Thank you for tuning in. Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Susie Brahm and Ed Essay to the podcast. Susie is an entrepreneur and expert in corporate innovation strategy and leadership. Former Head of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the UK national security arena, Susie now coaches executives and provides advice on business model development and innovation ecosystems. Welcome, Susie.
[02:02] Susie: Thank you. Nice to be here.
[02:04] Elijah: And Ed. Ed helps entrepreneurs have test and grow brilliant ideas in the Microsoft Garage. He’s an MIT Grad serial founder and veteran product leader who is passionate about technology and creating great culture and innovation through experimentation. Ed has led companywide change management and innovation programs that have helped over 25,000 employees earn Raving fans for their products. Ed founded the Garage experimental outlet that has delivered over 150 new and exciting projects to market. Hi Ed.
[02:44] Ed: Hi Elijah.
[02:46] Elijah: So Ed and Susie have been on the show before, so fans might know. So welcome back.
[02:57] Susie: That’s really thank you. Great to be back. And great to be back with Ed.
[03:03] Ed: Yeah, absolutely. Great to see you again, Elijah. It’s been a while since we’ve been working.
[03:11] Susie: Yeah, yeah, I think it was last summer, actually. I don’t know if we’ve spoken since last
[03:22] Elijah: Beautiful. So in the new tradition of the podcast that actually started with Ed, we have three questions we ask our guests. And since Ed has already received the questions today, we will sort of primarily direct them towards Susie and see what happens with it. And maybe if Ed has any new thoughts, he might want to add to it. Susie, what is innovation?
[03:53] Susie: Okay, so do you know what? It’s really funny because not long after I sort of heard you ask that question to Ed, my ten-year-old son. I can’t even remember now what prompted it because I guess he knows I work in innovation or if he reads was reading something, but he said to me, my ten-year-old son said, what’s innovation, Mum? And I actually replied really quickly, without thinking too much in language that I thought he would understand. And I said it’s something new that makes our lives better in some way. And he did. He got that instantly and actually didn’t ask anything else. And so, yeah, I think that’s what innovation is. It’s something new that makes our lives better in some way. I used to define it when I was head of innovation as anything new that adds value. And I guess for me it’s that combination of novelty plus impact that needs to be there. And I think it’s as simple as that and it can be as novel or as impactful to varying degrees. But, yeah, I think obviously there are different ends of the spectrum in terms of novelty and impact. But yeah, I think ultimately those are the two.
[05:05] Ed: Yeah.
[05:06] Susie: And that’s how I would define it. What did you Ed oh, Susie, I.
[05:11] Ed: Have to say I like how your answer to your son was about how it improves your life. So it’s more kind of consumer-focused or audience focused, whereas the answer you were using before was more focused toward your organization, like that it creates new value or new streams of value. So that’s interesting. Would you go and use the same definition in an organization again? Would you still say it’s like that innovation is something that makes the audience’s life better? Or would you say it’s something that makes the organization better either?
[05:59] Susie: And I guess it depends on what the focus of innovation efforts is. And I think it’s something we’re not actually very clear about quite often because I’ve been looking at speaking a bit about mission model thinking, which is just a slight adaptation on business model thinking, but specifically designed for organizations I’ve worked in, where we’re not generating revenue and we’re looking much more to measure the impact. And it’s as relevant if you’re working on an internal innovation project. So you’re doing something, whether it’s a new process or a new product or tool or whatsoever or service that’s going to make the lives of your employees better in some way. There’s no ROI in that, do you know what I mean? But it’s still innovation but for internal consumption. And we should be looking much more impact in that and measuring impact in that versus obviously, if you’re building something for external consumption and you are looking much more at ROI, I suppose I like to use the word value and it’s your interpretation of what value is. Is that money, is that revenue, or is it some other type of impact? It ought to be probably a combination of both in many circumstances. How do you define it?
[07:29] Ed: I gave the fruit trees and soil metaphor yeah. When I realized that a lot of organizations view innovation in different ways or different people do, sort of depending on what remit they got. As an innovation leader, a lot of people consider its fruit, as in please create for me an innovation. As in something new that I could take and maybe sell or deliver as value to somebody else. Whereas other people view it more as the tree, as in peach tree for the innovation. Like it’s a process or an organization that regularly is producing new fruit that you take to market. Whereas in the Microsoft Garage, we got the focus on innovation as a culture. And so I view that more as the soil creates a culture of innovation to where trees and all the fruit and so on can. You know, the more I was thinking about it and this is what I talked about at that Lean Startup conference where I met you originally, Susie, is that it’s really all three and it’s a portfolio approach, new things that you’re creating, the processes by which you create them and the culture by which they could spring up.
[08:51] Susie: Yeah, I agree. Actually, I was actually just going to ask you that. Do you think it can be all three? It’s a big question though, isn’t it? And when you look at sort of head of innovation or VP innovation jobs, and I meet people who are sort of new into those roles, or understanding, well, what is the scope and remit of this role? Because they can look completely different. You can sort of be a kind of internal VC at one end of the spectrum versus it’s all about culture and kind of skills and training kind of at the other. Do you know what I mean? And it can be anything in between that really and a combination. But that understanding of for me, I guess there ought to be scope there. And I know I changed like the second job ahead of the innovation job. I did, I did change the scope of the team because I guess for me it was about, well, what’s the greater need of the organization at that point in time? Does it need more products and services? Does it need like, stuff? Does it need you to innovate stuff and just get on with hands on doing innovation? Or are the greater challenges to innovation? Are they cultural or are they around skills and behavior? Where do you need to start? And also, I think, how much money, people resources have you got? I think also dictates what’s the right approach to take if you’ve got a tiny budget, you’re not going to get very far trying to do and invest in innovation yourself.
[10:37] Ed: The budget is a big one because innovation is often one of the first things to be defunded when times are lean. It’s also that organizations often don’t have time to invest in, can’t flip their focus by investing in multiple innovations at the same time. So it’s like usually if you’re incubating a number of things and one of them becomes the one that’s going to take off, you almost have to take a pause from advancing the other one so that you could put all the company resources behind that one, behind making that grow to become something that really adds a lot of value to the yeah.
[11:24] Susie: Yeah. All right, Elijah, what are your thoughts? How do our answers differ compared to other people you’ve interviewed?
[11:36] Elijah: I don’t think they substantially differ. It seems to be this risk-reward continuum. So all the way from continuous improvement, which is an innovation effort to address a new market with a new product or something like that right. Which has the potential for very high returns and a high likelihood of failure. That’s how I like to put it, as a continuum. And then it seems to make sense to slice it a little bit to make it a bit easier to put it into certain buckets. So I like these frameworks, but what I think is funny that is not funny, interesting is that what might slightly differ is in Ads answer, you have three buckets, but they’re not the classic buckets culture might be an enabler for the entire continuum.
[12:30] Susie: I would agree.
[12:31] Ed: Yeah, right.
[12:32] Elijah: But then we can it’s really tricky. I don’t know. It always triggers the same thought in me. What is important is that within your organization, it’s important to speak the same language. Everything else doesn’t really matter to me. Yeah, it just doesn’t matter.
[12:51] Susie: Nice.
[12:54] Elijah: But that’s important. Right. I find that really interesting when you say we’re hiring for roles with an undefined term, in a sense.
[13:05] Ed: Actually, anybody who’s asked to go after the fruit, it’s almost like you’re being set up for failure. It’s the hard job to go after just the fruit alone, especially if you’re only given a chance to go after one. Those people don’t get their jobs very long.
[13:25] Susie: No, but I think I would place a bet that probably about at least 80% of head of innovation jobs that are advertised are exactly that. They go get us some fruit and yeah. I mean, the amount I’ve seen and I’ve thought exactly that this is setting you up for failure. Especially then when you hear a bit more about what the budget is and the team that there is, it’s like, my God, that’s just walking into certain failure.
[13:54] Ed: Right. The only ones of those that survive more than two years are ones where there was a lot of trust placed behind that leader and almost like almost five to ten year opportunity to explore new things and make it work. But most will only have patience for one or two years to start seeing some kind of results there. And then it just becomes like maybe you got lucky. Maybe you got lucky and struck on the right thing on your first or second attempt. Maybe the first attempt you struck on something that was good enough, had some ROI somewhere between 1.5 and two or something like that. But what people are really looking for is like ten X or greater, and maybe you get that on the second one if you’re lucky. But the people who get ten X or greater on their first or second one is very rare. So people who are in roles where innovation is defined like that, they typically don’t stay in that job more than or that job doesn’t exist for more than two to five years.
[15:08] Elijah: Are they clever enough to get out before it’s over? Right. It seems to be the corporate innovation career path. Like show something that may look good enough and then get out. Right?
[15:22] Ed: Yeah.
[15:22] Elijah: I find this is one of the reasons why it reverts on that scale if you have this success pressure early on. One of the reasons why it reverts so quickly to the core, like to core innovation, to continuous improvement initiatives. Right? Because the chances of success there and again, that’s a success. Right. It’s a different type, but it’s nothing that I think sometimes innovators. Smile a bit about it and smile a bit about the definition of innovation when it comes to continuous improvement. I don’t think that’s okay, just want to put that out there just to air out my grievances.
[16:01] Ed: Wait, you don’t think continuous improvement counts as innovation?
[16:05] Elijah: No, I totally do. And I don’t like it when people like a sort of derogatory, like smile about it or think it’s not. But it is not creating new assets, it is not setting us up for the future. It is not derisking the fact that the organization might not exist in 20 years and so on and so on. But the chances for success are so much higher. And I think that’s one of the reasons why things go there, innovation activities.
[16:33] Susie: So I guess in the current climate, I completely understand why it’s an increasing focus because you are looking people are generally feeling sort of at the moment, slightly less risk taking up, taking less risk, and they’re feeling they actually need to look for kind of optimization and efficiencies. So that type of innovation ought to be right now, certainly on people’s radar. I think what is impressive though and bold is when people manage to continue to do the two in know, which is pretty.
[17:13] Ed: Are when you talk about this current climate, Susie, are you talking about this climate that just post all these tech layoffs at the beginning of 2023? Or are you talking about this climate where AI is coming up and AI is going to be expensive to use and everybody’s trying to figure out how to use AI to not only compete but to leapfrog ahead and innovations outside of AI.
[17:42] Susie: I’m thinking more very much economic climate. Yeah.
[17:48] Elijah: The possible recession.
[17:51] Susie: Yeah. I sense caution.
[17:55] Elijah: Yeah.
[17:56] Ed: Isn’t it this amazing time that we’re entering this so called recession? At the time where there’s this generational, generational inflection point in terms of technology, with what these large language models can do, and not only with what they could do because like GPT-3 and GPT-3 Five were around, but somehow OpenAI. Putting out chat GPT all of a sudden made it approachable. And so part of that kind of wave coming in is all of a sudden everybody else is getting it. The light switch just clicking on.
[18:39] Susie: Yeah, absolutely. And I guess I place better money that the companies that are doing well in ten years time are the ones that didn’t close their ears and just double down on what they’re currently doing in the face of some. Economic challenges and looked up and out and the opportunity and the potential there and continued to make those sorts of investments, to explore that. It’s easier said than done though. I appreciate it. But yeah, for sure.
[19:19] Elijah: I might move us along.
[19:20] Susie: Yeah.
[19:22] Elijah: Because I think we could easily just hang out for 5 hours if it wasn’t for the time difference. Yes. So the next question would be how do you think innovation should be measured?
[19:42] Susie: Yeah. So when I first heard this question I was thinking, well, are we looking at the outcome of the innovation or are we looking at innovation as a process? I don’t know if you had a particular view in mind, but I guess I was kind of thinking, well, both are really important to measure, right? And I think people struggle with both. So I guess first of all I was thinking like the process of innovation and one of the things that people say to me they struggle with is being able to show progress. And how do they show progress when there’s no actual product or widget ready? Something tangible that they can show their bosses, which is often what their bosses are asking for. And they often ask how do I show progress? And quite often not always, but I think the leadership types they’re dealing with as well are the ones that are focused on I want the outcome now, I want to see something tangible. Unless I can see it, I don’t believe it exists. And so that’s really about valuing the learning at that point and where that’s taking us, getting us closer to the best possible outcome. And one thing I tend to sort of say, and I’ve tried to do in the past, is that that’s really about understanding and measuring innovation risk and finding ways to articulate that to management and making it as visual as possible. So it’s why I actually think things like some of the business model canvas using sliding scales to sort of show where you are on different types of innovation risk or kind of like two by twos that maybe show the potential or the scale of the opportunity versus how much innovation risk you’ve got. And show things moving as you do different experiments and you learn more. I kind of think there’s different ways to do that. A really simple one I like using is just showing the business model canvas and having red amber green on the different parts of it to sort of show. Right. We’ve derisked the customer segment and value proposition or whatever, but in terms of who the key partners are, we don’t have a relationship in place yet. Whatever. It is like being able to sort of articulate that and provide clarity around what the biggest risk is and your next steps. And I think quite often with the type of leaders that are looking for tangible outcomes, what they’re looking for actually is a sense of progress being made. And I think it is the innovator’s job absolutely to articulate and visualize that progress for whoever it is that’s investing and also demonstrate early value whenever possible. So obviously if you go, if you’re a startup and you’re pitching to a VC, one of the things main thing they’re going to be looking at is traction, evidence of traction. And I think too often innovators sort of test and keep building like a product and then there’s like a big launch, do you know what I mean? And really we should be testing and using minimum versions of that product and actually creating small amounts of value for a small amount of people from the outset and then it’s like, well, how do we scale that? So I always think being able to show early traction is really important, even if they’re not necessarily like paying customers, being able to show the impact and value that the thing’s going to create. So that’s my thought on internal and the process. Ed, were you going to add to that?
[23:42] Ed: I wanted to ask you this because I think one of the things that occur to me is that in a business that’s trying to be ambidextrous, whereas on one hand, they’re trying to relentlessly execute and improve on known models. And on the other hand, you’re trying to create new, breakthrough things. It’s that most of the leaders in the company understand the relentless execution and improvement on your known models, whether they’re business models or mission models or whatever that happens to be. And the folks on the other side and they know how to ask questions about that. And the folks on the other side who are trying to create something new, the metrics they’re going to use, the models they’re going to use, how they value progress is very different than what the folks on the other side can do. And I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s very hard for anybody other than the founder of the company. It’s very hard for kind of later leaders to value and know how to understand innovation because most of them grew up with other people, grew up with an existing business model, that they were basically problems and growing, solving problems and growing, whereas trying to create something net new from scratch is harder and it’s rarer. And other than the founder, or other than somebody who became like, say, the turnaround leader of a company when it had a big problem and it needed to be redefined, other than that, there are very few people in the company who understand how to look at progress. So then it becomes incumbent on the innovator in those situations to explain and convince to the other leaders, the people who know how to see things, on the other hand, that this is what progress is, this is what you should expect. And that’s one of the reasons why pitching to say VPs is different than pitching to VC, because VCs are used to looking at those early stages of traction, whereas VPs aren’t. Necessarily.
[26:01] Susie: Yeah, absolutely. That’s where I think for me, certainly, there was a big awareness and kind of education piece of senior leadership, particularly those that were going to be being asked to invest in innovation, invest some of their budget in certain opportunities. Absolutely helping. This can be no assumption that they’ve got that experience or those skills and that that’s going to come automatically just because they’ve reached a certain level of seniority. Definitely. And then I guess the other part of that then, in terms of how can you measure innovation, I guess I read that as the impact of the innovation. How do you measure the impact? And obviously, ROI is one, but I guess, again, because I’ve been forced to look at the environments I’ve come from, we’re not measuring ROI, we are measuring impact. It’s forced me to look much more at how do you measure impact and how do you put metrics around that. And I think it’s something that actually both in mission centered organizations and in profit centered organizations, I actually don’t think impact is something that’s thought about much beyond the initial pitch. I don’t think it’s tracked. I don’t think it’s part of the experimentation process, and I don’t think it’s actually measured after something launches very often. But in terms of the metrics I would look at would be things like around understanding how much closer it gets you to the vision. Hopefully, there’s a clear enough vision. Everyone understands. I’d look at the potential scale and the actual scale, how many people or things are going to be impacted or are being impacted. So I guess that’s a kind of traction point efficiency. How many hours are we saving? How much effort are we saving on something? Perhaps it’s also around energy efficiency and things like that. Speed. How much more quickly are we getting reaching our desired outcomes? Is this helping us to do that? Accuracy and quality? So how much more confident are we in an outcome or a result of it happening at all, or of it being the right result? Joy, obviously, are we creating extra pleasure and are we removing pain? For people, behaviours are really good to sort of they’re more subjective than the previous ones I mentioned. But again, if you’re looking for shift to show, well, has this particularly when we design an intervention for something, and I’m thinking actually particularly around kind of things, around culture, actually in organizations, will we create a new tool or we create a new process or something like that internally, what was the desired behavioural outcome from that? And are we seeing shifts in the behaviour? And what would be leading indicators that we’re seeing shifts in that behaviour? What would you expect to start see people doing? And I also think looking at inaction, what would happen if we didn’t do this, and what would the impact of inaction be, which is obviously much harder to quantify. But again, I guess my thing with metrics, that I’m not like a metrics guru, and I think for me, the biggest learning on it has been something is better than nothing. You could waste a lot of time coming up with perfect metrics. For me, it’s always kind of like if I’ve got an indication that is good enough to get me going, and I kind of can see then if I turn something one way, if I fine tune here or if I fine tune there, what’s the impact of that? And if it’s good enough, just get some metrics that are good enough to get me going, and then I can optimize. And actually, quite often just that process tells you more about the type of metric that you need.
[30:20] Elijah: Can I throw something else in there? When we’re looking for monetary impact, or when we’re trying to make money so we know what it’s about, and even with cost saving, it’s not much different. And I actually think with Mission Impact models, it’s kind of a bang for buck thing as well. Like, how many lives can we save for how much money kind of thing. But what I find really tricky, and I wonder, given the organizations you worked for, what I find really tricky is actually the non event, right?
[31:01] Susie: Yeah.
[31:02] Elijah: Especially in national security space, success is for something not to happen.
[31:09] Susie: Yes.
[31:09] Elijah: Right. Hey, we had success, right? Something didn’t happen. I wonder how much we can draw on cybersecurity as a and this totally left field now, this might be the first cut, maybe not, but this is what we don’t want to have. We don’t want to be hacked. Right? We don’t want to on our person computers in our organizations and so on. And that must be quantified, right? Yeah, I’ve got another thought around it. We might stop there, but what’s the experience?
[31:51] Susie: Yeah. Ed, did you want to come in?
[31:55] Ed: Was well, being that where I work at Microsoft. Such an enormous focus on security. As a you, how do you quantify the impact? It reminds me of kind of preventative medicine. That’s what I was thinking about. All the things that you do to lead a healthy lifestyle so that if something does come around and you get sick, you still have capacity or the things that keep you from being sick. I bet some actuaries would really be able to help here, because it’s now that insurance model and health insurance are actually paying and investing in preventative medicine and allow that. But until recently, insurance companies didn’t reimburse or give you anything for preventative. It was only for treatment. And I bet there would be a lot to learn here from looking at how insurance companies made that decision to invest in preventative medicine. Well, it’s a lot of insurance.
[33:12] Susie: I was going to say it’s a cost benefit analysis, isn’t it? It’s a different cost and benefit to measure compared to ROI, but it is still a cost benefit analysis at the end of the day around how much effort, how much money, how many people hours is something going to cost versus what is the mission impact that we expect to get from something? And again, unintended consequences inaction if we decide not to do something, not to invest in something. So your analogy, Ed, not to invest in our health is that we need to do that risk with our eyes wide open. Right. All of those things are choices to make. There’s no right or wrong. And some of those choices will be incredibly hard because it might be certainly I guess in some of the cases I seen, it might be the case of investing in something that would support more people versus not investing in something that’s quite niche, but with potential disastrous consequences. Do you know what I mean? But is unlikely to happen. They’re really hard decisions to make. They’ve got to be aligned to kind of your strategy. You’ve got to be clear on where your focus is to help you make those investment decisions. And, yeah, I think working through what are the intended consequences, but what could the unintended consequences be, both of our decision to take action and our decision not to act. And I think working those through the intended and unintended consequences of action and inaction can help us sort of figure out, well, what is the cost benefit analysis here? But I just don’t think enough thought is often given to that, actually, in any situation, any context.
[35:14] Ed: This has me think, whether it’ll happen or not happen, it will happen. Security incidents are happening and getting caught all the time, like hundreds, if not thousands, if not tens of thousands a day, especially on large. Organizations that have a footprint. I imagine where you worked, Susie, there were probably 10,000 things thwarted a day that most of the people in the organization might not even know about that, but they’re being thwarted. And so it is going to happen. And it started and planning that it’s going to happen and knowing what the cost of it happening and they could happen at all these different scales, but it could happen. But it also has me think, when you’re in the business of innovation, a big part of that business is also a security business because it’s guaranteed that your business model or your market will become irrelevant in some way. If you’re not doing something, it’s basically if you’re stagnant, you’re actually declining.
[36:26] Susie: Yeah, there’s no such thing as stagnation, really, is there?
[36:29] Ed: Yeah, right.
[36:32] Elijah: Innovation is actually health insurance.
[36:36] Ed: It’s health insurance for your organization.
[36:38] Elijah: Yeah. You don’t really want to use it, but if you have to, you better have it in place.
[36:43] Ed: Right. But you also want to be preventative. It could cover both things for you. So I think a lot of companies are innovating and so on, and they put things on the shelf that may maybe they’re not using, but when the right thing comes around, they’re glad that they have it so that they could pick it up and use it. If you talk to most people who’ve been in the space of running innovators for a while, innovation programs for a while, incubators accelerators within their organization, and they have had the trust and their leadership has given them the trust to do it. Almost all of them say timing is the number one thing to get right. And for companies that have had the patience to do the innovation and to be able to put a whole bunch of things set aside for sometimes the right moment comes and you want to grab that thing and get it to market quickly. Whenever you see a large organization respond to a surprise change in market, it’s because somewhere somebody predicted that change was going to happen and they already built it, but some other leader didn’t ship it at the time. And then a problem comes and then they’re like, AHA, we’re prepared. We have that thing anyway. Yes, it is insurance against those crazy things that could sideswipe you, but it’s also planning for growth and constant consistent growth in different areas. So I think innovation needs to cover this gamut of things to help a company be truly healthy.
[38:35] Susie: Yeah, totally agree. Yeah.
[38:39] Elijah: I think we’ve got a podcast title here, something around health insurance something.
[38:47] Susie: Yeah, definitely. Well, I mean, if you want to move on to the next question because that actually I think it certainly sets me up nicely for what I was thinking about.
[38:58] Elijah: Great. Yeah, let’s just cover it. Maybe we cover it briefly. So I have a ticked from my little OCD.
[39:09] Susie: We’ll give you the tick, Elijah, fine.
[39:17] Elijah: Thank you. So what is the biggest blocker to innovation in your or in large organizations in general? That is the third question.
[39:26] Susie: So I think in the organizations I’ve worked for and worked with, I think it is short term thinking is the biggest blocker we have touched on this. And it is about that focus on shipping something over impact and linked to that short term thinking or part of it I can’t quite figure out in my head which is the cause and which is the effect but that prioritization of delivery of something over impact and timescales being reduced. So I think it drives leaders to shut down exploration prematurely, and I think it closes off potential opportunities because it’s because they haven’t got the kind of patience or the stomach to kind of withstand it. After a certain amount of time, they just feel even if there’s no actual pressure on them, it’s like this self generated pressure that, well, we’ve been working on this for six months. We must have something by now that we can ship. And I think it’s this kind of action oriented kind of style of leadership which is great in many circumstances and it’s not that we don’t want inaction when it comes to innovation but it’s just like what is the action that we’re looking for and making sure we’re not shutting down those opportunities too quickly. But I think it is that and Ed, I remember us having a conversation a while ago and I was kind of reflecting that we have seen that play out actually in both our organizations and the tendency as well to reward that behavior. So quite often, certainly I’ve seen will sink money into a project, a new tool or a new product and once it’s shipped, whoever was in charge gets promoted and they’ve moved on sort of six months down the line. Well, no one really asks what impact did that have? Either it’s doing quite well or everyone’s kind of forgotten about it but at no point has anyone really ever held to account for the sustained impact or lack of impact that it’s had and that just incentivizes and rewards entirely that sort of short term thinking. And I have I remember I said it on the last but there’s a conversation I had with a senior leader once that I quote a locks. The impact of it on me has never left me. And he was talking about his team, he sort of had a team of software agile using Agile but software dev and I was asking him about something they were working on in particular. I said how do you know that’s the right thing to do? And he said he just said to me I don’t care, don’t care if it’s the right thing or not but I have to have something shipped within whatever the time frame was, I don’t know, two months. And it was just inexcusable to me on so many levels. A, it’s public money. So it’s just an inexcusable waste of public money in that occasion. Secondly, the team probably knowingly working on stuff that you know isn’t going to have impact is really demoralizing. If you do see other opportunities and they’re being shut down, again, incredibly demoralizing. But public money is just inexcusable waste of money. It’s a waste of people’s talent and time. It was like a moment for me and I just thought, what’s gone wrong? When we’ll quite openly stand up and say, I don’t care if it has impact or not, I’m going to ship something. And that’s the type of behavior that our organizations, I think, are driving us having that conversation. Ed.
[43:38] Ed: I do you remember Susie brought me to her organization for a keynote for an innovation conference that she organized. Do you remember the theme of my keynote? It’s about fear. I think fear is one of the biggest blockers. So like, this visual on my way to the keynote, I remember the conversation, all these things we were having, and I fell asleep on the plane and I woke up and I had this visual in my mind of this shape like this, and it meant three things. So the first thing it meant was like a light bulb. Like, here’s what an innovator sees. An innovator sees this brilliant idea, right? And then what often happens to a project, or what so many people who’ve gone this road so many times see is the way it’s going to die. So that same shape could be a skull. And so it was a light bulb and then a skull. But what does the organization see? The organization sees an atom bomb blowing up everything that they and it reminded me of this little line that was in the Lean Startup that I didn’t catch until my third reading through the Lean Startup that it’s not that you have to protect the innovation from the big organization. You have to protect the organization from the innovation and whether that innovation will cause risk to the rest of the organization. So that’s why, surprisingly, compliance and all those things that people worry about, slow it down, you actually need that to protect the business from this idea because leaders are looking at that and they’re like, that is going to blow things up. And so it’s that fear of leadership about what can go wrong, like fear that I’m going to be wasting my money on this, fear that I’m going to be wasting my time and resources. Fear that it’s the wrong direction and I’m going to get laughed at. Fear that it’s going to hurt the company. It is this fear which is in many ways well founded, because, again, in this Ambidextrous organization, the people on the one side who have to relentlessly execute on the known business model, they have to keep doing that. And anything that risks those known business models is a problem for the large organization or mission models or whatever it happens to be. So that is it. It is a fear and that’s what leads to this other force that happens which is the gravitational pull of the biggest part of your organization, like the gravitational pull of your big business, the gravitational pull of your big mission. You can’t get escape velocity when the big organization sees that idea as like oh, you can incrementally help me keep my known business or thing alive. So even once it gets funded and moved on, the next risk is a fear based risk which is that big thing needs that other innovation that you now see working, that it needs that to survive. And so instead of giving it a chance to go off and become like a new thing that grows up as horizon three, it becomes an incremental thing that helps your existing big business.
[47:23] Susie: Yeah, I agree. I think fear in its different guises. I guess I touched on that, that last article I just put out on inertia in that the typical fear responses like fight or flight and quite often there is fight, right? The antibodies do come out quite often. But that other one is freeze is something I see quite a lot in that when there’s a particularly I think in uncertainty it is kind of that choice, although they’re not making unintended kind of choice of inaction over action I think often happens and it’s really like a freeze response. It’s kind of like this is probably a bit where a lot of companies are at the moment with the whole AI question. It’s kind of like well this is big, we probably need to do something but it’s a bit too scary and we’re not too sure what. So we’re just going to freeze for.
[48:15] Ed: The moment.
[48:19] Susie: See what happens. And I guess particularly so this actually kind of leads into the psychological safety stuff that I’ve been looking at recently is if psychological safety in organizations, particularly in leadership teams and executive teams is low, that fear is going to be acute. The risk of being so first of all, being the one who does do something differently, who doesn’t follow the kind of culture and herd of the rest of the sort of senior leadership teams, who does try different ways of working, who does try some investment in some innovation first of all, even just doing that. Secondly, then yeah, the risk of that not working out if you’re not on a leadership team where it is safe to take risks that just permeates throughout the entire organization without a doubt. And it’s something I’ve been kind of looking at more and more because I’d always been interested in psychological safety from a kind of innovation team perspective and understanding how it contributed to that and generally high performing teams. But I’ve been looking at it more and more in terms of its impact on the culture of an organization and what’s permeating from that senior leadership. Super interesting.
[49:43] Elijah: Can I ask you guys how you define or at least somewhat define psychological safety?
[49:52] Ed: You want to take that?
[49:54] Susie: Yeah. So yeah, part of it is known, let’s just defer to Amy Edmondson and as you can add into this, but yeah, it is about how safe it feels to try something different, to experiment with something, to take what might be perceived as a bit of a risk. It’s also very much about how comfortable and confident you feel to express yourself, to say, to offer your opinion, to challenge something, even to ask a question, and how much courage is it kind of taking to do that, or is that just actually a totally normal thing to do? So those are kind of the best ways I would describe it. We’ve got those environments where we have and you can imagine the impact of those environments where people are comfortable asking questions, to offer a different opinion, to ask someone for more clarity or go, why that? And just develop the idea more like the ability to bounce that around between you versus people who just do know. It is not a safe space to say what you’re thinking or to ask a question or to admit you don’t know something like what the potential consequences of that can be from both a performance and innovation perspective. Do you agree with that? Is that your view on it, Ed?
[51:17] Ed: Absolutely. Susie and I think what you’re touching on is you were touching on a lot of the elements that people get wrong when they hear psychological safety. Like, when people hear psychological safety, they think it’s like, hey, can I be on a team where everybody is nice and kind and gets along? And that’s not what it is. Psychological safety is where being able to bring the dissenting opinion or the minority opinion or the out there point of view is trusted so that everybody has a chance to speak up and represent what they do. And again, it gets back to the fear thing. So psychological safety is, in a way, like the removal of the fear from bringing all your gifts to the job.
[52:13] Susie: Yeah, that’s a really nice way of putting it. Yeah.
[52:17] Ed: And this is one of the things that leads to a thing that I think Susie and I both believe in, is that more diverse teams have better outcome. The most diverse teams have better outcome. And that’s diversity not only in your background like your race, your gender, your orientation, but also diversity in the ways that you think. So cognitive diversity and the different cognitive skills that people bring to an organization and allowing not only allowing, but encouraging people to think differently and act differently. And it’s hard in organizations where or hard difficult in organizations that have been around for a while that may have hired for, oh, people think like me, we get along because it’s difficult to interview and decide to bring on somebody in the team who gives you that tension. This is one of those things that absolutely needs to be overcome. And I’ve got a fun story here, a quick one, but a colleague of mine ran this kind of incubator program over a series of several months, but it started with, hey, everybody comes in, everybody comes in, works on ideas. But at some point they needed to winnow down the number of ideas. So they kept encouraging people to jump to different teams until a certain amount of teams had critical mass. Now, what ended up happening is there were a few people who didn’t jump. They stayed as single, working on their idea. And my colleague forcibly put them on a team together, said like, hey, your ideas are kind of similar. You’re on a team together, you’re on a team together. And then those projects continued through to the end. And then at the end, there were some projects that had notably better outcomes than the others. And it happened to be those teams that she randomly forced that you have to work together, that stood out as outliers from the others. And it was not even an experiment to try to get better outcomes. It was just like, hey, we need you on teams and you haven’t done that. And maybe they haven’t done it because they think in a certain way that’s different than others and so on. But they put these diverse teams together, they gave them a lot of safety and how to work well together, a lot of support and how to work with each other and just had better.
[55:01] Elijah: Outcomes beyond the sort of anecdotal evidence for it. There’s good data on that. I can post that in the show notes. So there’s some but it has to be leveraged. Yeah, absolutely.
[55:20] Susie: This is the thing, and if you haven’t got the psychological safety, you cannot leverage that diversity. And that’s what prompted me to look at this, because I was working with a leadership team where my instinct was there was probably quite high cognitive diversity, but low psychological safety and just not able to leverage that cognitive diversity. And I came across this framework, I’d have to talk about it more detail at ICQ Global, it’s called, and it attracted me because it looks at those it actually measures in two separate assessments, both of those elements, it measures psychological safety and motivational drive, and it measures there’s another one that measures cognitive diversity. And the more I’ve looked at it, the more I’ve understood the interplay between the two. And having a diverse team, there is huge potential. There like the best potential you can imagine, but they feed off each other. If you don’t understand and appreciate those differences, that’s going to lead to a very psychologically unsafe environment, which is going to make it impossible to leverage because people will conform to kind of the cultural norms of the group or team that they’re in. They won’t actually express their diverse opinions, and we can’t harness it. Do you see what I mean? But the more diverse a group is, actually, the harder quite often you have to work out the psychological safety because they won’t automatically understand each other’s different perspectives. And there’s no shortcutting that you have to spend time with people to get to know them and understand the values that underpin and drive their behaviors and the way that they think. And once we start to build that and develop that greater empathy and understanding, then we’ve got the psychological safety and then we can really harness the diversity of the team. But, yeah, I found it absolutely fascinating, the more and more I look into it and the more I practice it as well with different teams.
[57:31] Elijah: Can I add there or maybe you can help me out here. So I agree with the definition. I’m trying to come to something that’s very simple for the sake of measurement so we can drive it. Right. And I think the idea of what encompasses it quite well, but please disagree. That will be very much my point right now. It is the ability to say something or feeling safe enough to say something that you’re not sure about that may be wrong right. That is safety.
[58:08] Ed: Or that may be contrary to what seems like the consensus opinion of the room.
[58:15] Susie: Yes, exactly.
[58:16] Elijah: Good. Okay, so good. Right. We could think about that, what the difference is, or if we have both. But if you take one or the other or both, then one can actually take immediate steps of measuring that right. And creating a bit of a baseline with some simple questions. Did you stop yourself in the last week saying something because you were worried that either you’re saying something that’s just perceived as silly, right, wrong from the group or something, that these kind of things and I think I just looked at that survey or the tool looks interesting. Very much post that as well. I think it’s important to come to some understanding there so we can measure it. And it would be lovely to empower teams maybe, who want to take that step, who say, hey, we as a team, we want to become psychologically know or lead us.
[59:18] Ed: But yeah, well, the thing is, I don’t think we need to come up with a new instrument right now. We at least use what Amy Edmondson’s team at Harvard Business School has been using because they’ve come up with instruments to measure psychological safety, and they’ve recently made an improvement on the instrument as well.
[59:42] Elijah: Okay.
[59:43] Ed: But yeah, that could be used as at least as the starting point. And I think as great researchers, I’m pretty sure they would say they’re optimistic that there’s an even better model or a better instrument out there. So not to say, hey, let’s stop, but at least let’s start with that.
[01:00:09] Elijah: That’s why I was saying that, right? How can we take something and just get started and it doesn’t have to be perfect, but certainly take it serious. And I always think this is entirely.
[01:00:21] Susie: Based on her work, actually, the psychological safety part of it. It is, yeah, entirely. I mean, has to be, right?
[01:00:28] Elijah: Link in the show notes.
[01:00:32] Susie: Well, she’s just incredible, isn’t she? She’s one of my favourite thought leaders. Yeah, that must be she’s amazing.
[01:00:43] Ed: Also in cognitive diversity. I found it fascinating, Susie, that you and I have both been looking into psychological safety and cognitive diversity, which was something we learned kind of in the green room before Elijah hit the record button because I’ve been working with Sence Worldwide, which is like in your stomping grounds over there in London where they’re headquartered to understanding and valuing and offering cognitive diversity has been their business model for over 20 years in how they think about and stoke innovation in organizations. And they’re figuring out how to measure these different cognitive skills and to measure the overall cognitive diversity of teams. And they do that with a series of what is for them like proprietary questions, but that quickly they could get to these skills. And I’m excited because we’re going to share some of this in another talk later today at Inolead. So I’ll be able to get you a link to that as well, Elijah, where they’re sharing some of this information for the first time. But we’re undertaking a study on looking at Microsoft. Here at Microsoft, we run the world’s largest hackathon. Our last hackathon, for instance, had 10,000 projects. So that’s 10,000 teams and that gives us a really and we’ve been doing this for we’re coming on the 10th year now, so that gives us tens of thousands of projects that we’ve been looking at in teams. And we’re sitting on this amazing corpus of data and these are teams that help selected and fast formed and we want to look and see what different makeups led to different outcomes and to see if there are ways that we could use our tool to nudge different sets of teams together. And so we’re undertaking oh, that’s going to be fascinating. Floor this.
[01:02:57] Susie: Yeah. What a great test bed.
[01:03:02] Ed: We’re researching how psychological safety in all of these teams leads to outcomes and how cognitive diversity leads to certain outcomes and ways that you keep us posted on that.
[01:03:12] Susie: That’s going to be really interesting. Awesome stuff.
[01:03:19] Elijah: Yeah. Wonderful. Susie, would you like to start going into to talk about the catalyst? Yeah.
[01:03:34] Susie: Why do I start with this? Okay, so this actually came up for me. So I’ve been looking at the subject of organizational catalysts over the last, I guess actually it’s almost twelve months now and it came up for me, I guess, self identifying as an organizational catalyst and thinking about my experiences and where on earth I’ve gone through some of the things I’ve gone through, but it was particularly prompted. I was reading a book called The Corporate Explorer by Andy Bins, charles O’Reilly and Michael Tushman. It’s a great book. It’s the sort of book I wish I’d had access to when I first started my innovation journey. And there’s a part in it anyway, though, that looks at different incentive models for what they call corporate explorers, which I think is probably slightly different to how I’m using the term organizational catalyst, but similar enough. And they looked at different incentive structures for them in different organizations and they kind of reached the conclusion that actually none of the incentive structures they looked at were particularly effective. So particularly things about do they get equity if they’re particularly developing a new business model or things like that, promotion and other things. And I kind of thought, well, okay, so none of these things appear to have been effective. Well, what does motivate these people? And actually, what on Earth motivates these people? Because quite often, actually, I guess when I’m thinking particularly of organizational catalysts, perhaps more than their terminology around corporate explorers, sometimes there’s things that we do that are actually quite harmful to our career progression. Do you know what I mean? We get stuck on something that we care deeply about and we’re focused on that rather than career progression. We say things that other people don’t really want to hear. We ask difficult questions, right? And that can be quite difficult as well. And I just was kind of like, what on earth is there stuff that motivates them? And so, yeah, I interviewed Ed along with about actually, I think close to I think I did about 20 interviews over the course of sort of the summer and autumn last year. I guess all of the themes that have emerged from it. My plan is to start putting this into kind of articles. I led a workshop on this topic in Lisbon at an innovators conference in May. And yeah, I’m starting to sort of pull that together, but I know you were interested to hear what the themes were that emerged. I guess the big ones were really around. So one of the things that got me thinking as well was as I was talking about what traits define catalysts, I did get this kind of list of traits and it is exactly as you would imagine, there’s a high amount of curiosity. They tend to be really impact driven, actually, so they care to their detriments quite often. So it can a bit like an entrepreneurship, it can kind of develop into obsession at times, very much very collaborative, tend to be quite energetic. People like quite sort of sparky tend to have ideas. They’re not always I don’t always think of myself as an ideas person, but yeah, all those things kind of collaborative. I’m just going to have a quick look at the other list that came up, actually, other things that came up while I’ve got it in front of me. But yeah, it was just the same traits effectively were coming up. And it’s not that you’d have all of them, but it’s that they tend to have them so think differently. And that’s one of the things that people have said to me, and actually, I take it as the biggest compliment that anyone can ever give me is people have said, you help us think differently, you see things differently, and you help us think about things differently. But yeah, the energy is there. They’ve got a growth mindset. They’re curious. They want to know why they want to make things better, including themselves, and they can sort of see that big picture. They’re generally pretty self motivated as well, again, sometimes to the point where they can become a little bit too kind of tunnel focused. But one of the questions that came up, it came up for me twice, actually. One was in conversation with Katie, who I co founded Yellow Cat with and who I used to work with. And then it came up for me when I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who would not describe himself as a catalyst or innovator in any way. And I was talking to him about catalysts and the presentation I was doing, and he’s like, oh yeah, just like and he mentioned this guy’s name, let’s just call him John. Just like John. And basically, what language can I use on your podcast, Elijah? How careful do I need to be with my language?
[01:08:28] Elijah: Careful? Google already found.
[01:08:37] Susie: Just fill the word with what?
[01:08:38] Elijah: Nothing to do with.
[01:08:41] Susie: So John is not someone that you would aspire to be, let’s put it that way. And I was thinking, why does and I thought, I didn’t see him as a catalyst. Why does my friend see him as a catalyst? And my friend Katie, it was this question around, well, it’s people who think they are catalysts and those that actually are. And I guess I was kind of like, it’s this behavior between people who are disruptors versus those that are just simply disruptive. And it got me looking at what are the traits that separate those two? I can’t really find the language, but it’s kind of like a genuine versus a fake catalyst or a catalyst. But it is that kind of disruptor versus disruptive. I think there’s two things. I think one is a genuine catalyst is collaborative by nature. So in fact, quite often these people are the connectors in organizations. They kind of know everyone and they’re kind of like, oh, you know who you should speak to if you’re interested in doing something on that, you need to speak to them. And they connect people, right? And they spark off other people and they want to make those things happen and bring different people in. Whereas I think those that. Are not genuine in their intent, tend to be quite egocentric. And actually they’re looking for something that they can kind of take credit for and claim and kind of show, oh, look at what I did. I think they tend to be quite egocentric. And then the other thing I think with Catalysts is that is that curiosity and growth mindset that I think they have when they’re genuine and they apply that to everything, they apply that to themselves, like everything, including me, can always be better. And I do not think that the fake Catalyst thinks that. I think they kind of think, I know the answer. Will these idiots just cop on and do what I already know? Is the answer just do it kind of attitude? And for me, that’s something that’s come out is this distinction about what they are. That was the first theme. If I just run through my themes, then I’d love to get your thoughts on it all. Then the second thing was really around how do leaders enable? So this is kind of how you spot Catalysts. First of all, it’s those traits and particularly emerging or baby Catalysts, as I kind of think of them, of when you see someone who has that growth mindset and curiosity and they’re collaborative, they have huge potential like nurture that put them in environments where that is encouraged and not dampened. But also, what do Catalysts need from leadership in order to thrive? And I came up with this two by two, which is kind of autonomy and space. So they are quite self motivated. They need space to explore and they need time. They are very driven. But they also want and need challenge and support from you. So it’s not like just give them free rein. The best ones, they want to be challenged. They want you to challenge their thinking because they want their thinking to be better. They want support, they want advocacy. And there are things that leaders in a unique position to do and that is use their political capital to help Catalysts open doors and influence. And I think it’s like finding the balance between those two things is critical. And I guess the message I’ve been trying to give to leaders that I work with because I think so many of them hear these days like, oh God, like the pressure to be innovative, I’ve got to be innovative. And I kind of think, well, you don’t have to be. Yes, you need to understand what it’s about, but you will have these Catalyst type of people in your organization find them, help them relate and understand what the organizational kind of strategic priorities are and then set them loose on that. Do you know what I mean? And support them. You don’t have to be the one doing innovation. So don’t fear it. Don’t fear these people. Find them and use them. And then how impactful will they be? How impactful are you as a leader and what’s the impact for your organization? I think it’s like off the scale. So for me, it’s like, how do we connect the two much better? And then the last thing I’ve looked at is as a catalyst, how do you look after yourself, your own mental health? And we’ve talked about psychological safety and often, particularly in traditional organizations, it’s not a safe place for these people, right? They are saying they don’t conform to organizational norms. They are asking questions quite often that other people don’t really want to ask because they’re difficult and that can feel. And actually, when I ran this at the workshop, it was really powerful, actually, because we did a live mentee and I asked them to put into the mentee, like, how does it feel to be a catalyst in a traditional organization? The first word that came up was lonely and it came up like massive. And it started to go down as other words came up, but it was still the biggest one there. But it was the way it suddenly just came up, the first word on the screen, massive, lonely. And when you don’t have that support and you are feeling lonely, often frustrated, that can then start to go into kind of disengagement as well. It’s really hard. And because these people, it’s in their nature to care so much to a point where it is a vice, not a virtue. Quite often there has to be an element of self care and self awareness. And one of the books I keep quoting at the moment, don’t know if you guys have read it, but Annie Duke’s latest book, she wrote Thinking in Bets and now she’s written a book called Quit and it is about the ability to know when to quit. And we talk about that a lot as innovators, right? We need to know which ideas to quit, right? And we need to look at the evidence and we mustn’t get too attached to our ideas. But as innovators, we’re quite gritty, I think, by nature. And that grit is good until it becomes a virtue, until it becomes a vice, right? And I think knowing when, as an innovator, when you have done everything you can and the situation, whether it’s the leadership support, whether it’s whatever the climate is, you need to know what your quick criteria are and not just continue to bang your head against a brick wall if you ever want to protect yourself and your mental health. And so there is something around how do we look after our catalysts, like ourselves and take ownership and responsibility for that? So that’s what I’ve learned. Love to hear your reflections and thoughts on all of that.
[01:15:41] Ed: I’m eager, but it’s not my podcast giving you.
[01:15:48] Elijah: Is no, this is the.
[01:15:52] Ed: First thing that was like this word popped into my head as you started talking. Susie which is so and then I thought maybe that’s the difference between a disruptor and somebody who’s just disruptive is that a true catalyst is sort of the champion for what is holistic within the organization, for representing this. Holistic consider every side, every angle, point of view. And I think that’s something that they stand out, like why they want to grow in the organ. Like they have a growth mindset for both themselves and for the organization. There’s this psychological term called optimistic model seeking. They want to change the organization not because things are wrong, but because they believe things can be even better.
[01:16:52] Susie: Exactly.
[01:16:54] Ed: And maybe disruptive people are more like John. I don’t know what motivates John. Maybe it just wants to be contrarian, maybe more of a pessimistic point of view, like, oh, this is wrong, so let’s change it in some way. So that was one of the things that jumped out to me then. I wish I was taking notes because something else jumped out of me at the second part. Can you remind me what the second part of this was?
[01:17:32] Susie: Yeah, so the second part was the first was that fake or genuine catalyst? Then it was about leaders and how can leaders support? And I talked about the two by two around autonomy versus kind of support.
[01:17:45] Ed: I would say the most pressing thing a leader could do to a catalyst is to say, like, yes, I’m going to support you in encouraging and encouraging and then to chicken out at the end and to withdraw air cover or withdraw support or to water it down at the end.
[01:18:05] Susie: Yes, quite a few people said that, particularly the fake exploration. So where they say, we’d love you to work on this, but really they’ve actually got a solution in their mind and quite quickly as an innovator, you start to realize, oh, they seem to be directing me towards a certain solution here, and then you realize this was never genuine. They actually just wanted me to arrive at the conclusion they’ve already come to. And yeah, a number of people mentioned that to me in interviews. Like, how frustrating that was. What an utter waste of their time disingenuous and would just totally lose the confidence and faith of any innovator or Catalyst. Working with the leader that did that.
[01:18:59] Ed: I remember really clearly times when I’m like, okay, let’s understand the principles and values of what we’re trying to achieve here. How are we going to measure the outcome? Like, okay, we got it. Okay. And then I went off with a team of people, came back with like 20 different options and then scored them against the rubric of those principles. And a few things just jumped out like, AHA, we should do one of these three things. And then and brought that to the leader. And the leader is like, oh, no, we’re going to do that. We’re going to do something else. I was like, Wait, that wasn’t even like, okay, let’s put that option on there. It’s the lowest scoring of all the principles and values that you gave us versus the other 20 options. And it was like there were some other principles and values that were never shared. I figured out what they were and they were mostly back to fear. Like they were fear based or they were about that leader maintaining power or control or whatever it happened to be. But it was like, yeah, I get that.
[01:20:21] Susie: Absolutely. If they’re genuine constraints, share them up front. Yeah. But that kind of when you’ve got the solution in mind and you’re waiting for someone else to arrive. I think it’s so disrespectful. And these people are rare, right? There is a book actually called Rare Breeds, which is on pretty much the same topic, and they are rare. They’re not the norm in organizations. The norm is to keep your head down, do what you’re told, deliver. This is not the norm. And so if you’re looking for people to keep their head down, deliver, you will have loads of them. Don’t waste a catalyst time doing that. That’s not where they’re going to have impact. And they’ll ultimately when catalysts get to that point where they’re disengaged, they will walk, they will leave the organization. And I think that’s not a place you want to be getting to. Yeah. I’m happy to have a longer conversation with you, Ed. I’ve found it fascinating. And then the more I talk about and present some of the findings, the more I learn and it feeds into it and I get more data points as well around how people perceive this as an issue and as a topic. Elliot, over to you. I know we’ve gone over time and your eyes are probably pinned open with toothpicks by now.
[01:21:48] Elijah: It’s a wonderful format. It’s really relaxing, actually. Maybe I’m just tired, but I think.
[01:21:56] Ed: It’s you’re, like in the.
[01:22:01] Susie: He’s just thinking about that hammock you showed us earlier, Ed, and he’s just in it.
[01:22:06] Elijah: Oh, that. I think I think this is a good moment to stop.
[01:22:19] Susie: Okay.
[01:22:19] Elijah: For now. Yeah. Thank you so much. Or is there anything closing you want to get off your chest?
[01:22:32] Ed: You said to me what occurs to me is that it’s like trust at all sorry. Fear at all levels is sort of the blocker, whether it’s in the individuals and the innovators, like the people who have not been given that psychological safety for the leaders to put trust in their catalysts or their innovators to move forward and so on, that’s the blocker. And if that’s the blocker, what is the unblocker? Or if that’s the disease, what is the cure? And the cure is trust.
[01:23:24] Elijah: How do you trust?
[01:23:25] Susie: By learning to understand each other better. Don’t you understand why you think differently and the benefits of somebody thinking differently to you and what’s driving that for them? When I did that, ICQ course, one of the things he kept saying was, we see the behavior and we put our own interpretation on that. We do not know what the intention is behind it unless we know that person well. Do you know what I mean? And we will assume intention based on our own system of values and the way that we think. And it’s not unless you know someone, do you know what I mean, that you can it’s a really silly example, but I’ve got some old school friends. I must have known them now for like, 30. Well, actually, one of them I’ve known since I was six years old, so it was a group of four of us and one of them, she’s always late and her natural face is a bit grumpy looking. And she walked into the pub three of us are waiting for, and she walked in, typically kind of marching in. Bit of a frown on her face. And if everyone else saw her, they’d be like, oh, my God, look what’s coming. What’s wrong with her? Whereas the three of us that looked at her, we looked at her and then we looked at each other and we just sort of went, Katie. And it’s almost endearing, actually, that she was coming in with a frown on her face because we knew her. We don’t need to be alarmed. Katie always has a frown on her face, you know what I mean? Whereas someone who doesn’t know her would be, like, assuming all sorts of intention by the way she was marching in with a frown. And it’s just a silly little example, but, yeah, I think you cannot build trust. There’s no shortcut for building trust other than spending time with people and getting to know them better.
[01:25:17] Elijah: Can I say there’s also something utopian about it. I agree. Right. And that’s just a desire. I just want to work with people I trust and I hope people can trust me. Right. But there’s something like, how do we do it and how much of it is utopian? Didn’t we talk about this, Susie, about no, it wasn’t a different episode, but there’s a large percentage of managers, I think they’re measured in supply chain, actually. Psychopaths, sociopaths.
[01:25:59] Susie: Yeah, I think you did.
[01:26:00] Elijah: Whatever. Actually, did we do that right? And I can’t remember again. Oh, my God. I blame the time, right? But one or the other, just to bring yeah.
[01:26:16] Susie: I’m not sure we want to end on that note, though.
[01:26:21] Elijah: Totally on that high note. See you next time, guys.
[01:26:27] Ed: There’s nothing left to say.
[01:26:31] Elijah: I always say this is not a dopamine podcast. This is not a dopamine innovation podcast. So here, you got it, guys. This is the evidence.
[01:26:42] Ed: I do want to throw something because it’s not all like this Pollyanna utopia thing. Susie, you sparked this for me. It’s not like leaders need to blindly trust their people. I think it’s getting to know each other that’s better. And so for the leader. Often the thing for the leader of a catalyst is to be vulnerable. So to trust them with vulnerability and actually say, no, candidly, these are my objectives. So I got to tell you, I gave you that list of things, but I’ve got something else that I don’t want it to be in the documentation, but this is really another principle that I need you to design for. And instead of just waiting the end or that leader within innovation to say, like, okay, these are the things we’re afraid of here. Innovate around this or catalyze around this or whatever it happens to be, because I would say it’s those leaders who are in positions that they’re probably not being vulnerable about something.
[01:27:59] Susie: Yeah, I totally agree. I think that’s really good advice.
[01:28:04] Ed: And then from the point of view of the innovator or the catalyst, is to be able to trust that manager who keeps withdrawing support from you is not withdrawing support because they don’t believe in you, to trust that they believe in you, but instead that it might be a courage issue. Right. So trust that they support you and they have your back and then be really open to that critical feedback of what will work in the organization or what is too far and what isn’t too far. So the sort of like, trust that person who’s already I’m hyper triggered, ed.
[01:28:48] Elijah: I’m hyper. I’m grieving. Honestly, I remember being so burned being back to what can we say on this podcast or not, not to be blocked by platforms, but I’ve been really hurt, I really trusted. And then one element changed and being just, yeah, that was it. That was here, that was it. I don’t know what I am. Right. I hope I’m the genuine catalyst who just probably hit some markets. I really have a hard time not saying something, even though I know I shouldn’t, and this is bad for my career and there goes but I just kind of seem to care. At least it’s what I think. I think I’ve lived through that and I don’t think I’ve recovered as much as I agree. Right. Again, I personally want to live in a trusted environment. I hope people can trust me. And yes, those are highly effective environments. And yes, if that’s a top down thing, like, you can have it within a team. Sure.
[01:30:13] Ed: Right.
[01:30:14] Elijah: And you can have it within larger teams, especially if managers I totally agree with you. Right. Show some vulnerability. At least. I also have empathy for leaders who don’t just keep it a bit like what people maybe call professional or what have you, nobody’s sort of things. And I don’t know, maybe I’mixing too much up. But as I’m saying, I’m feeling a.
[01:30:41] Susie: Bit I completely relate to that. I came across this phrase, someone said it to me the other day, organizational PTSD. And I just think, yeah.
[01:30:57] Elijah: How do we make it happen.
[01:30:59] Susie: That’s the topic of the next one.
[01:31:02] Ed: This is Prisoner’s Dilemma.
[01:31:06] Elijah: Prisoner Dilemma?
[01:31:07] Ed: Yeah. Are you familiar with Prisoners Dilemma?
[01:31:10] Elijah: I’m not.
[01:31:11] Susie: Nice.
[01:31:12] Ed: The idea is like, okay, two people who went and committed a crime together, and the police catch them both and put them in separate rooms, and they’re like, hey, you know, the other one talked and so on. But they don’t have any evidence, and they’re just trying to get that confession. And if neither one of them if neither one of them rats the other one out, they both get away. Right. If one rats the other out, but the other one doesn’t. If one rats the other one out, said, hey, I was just a bystander. I saw this person do it, I just happened to be there. Right, but the other one doesn’t rat the other one out. Oh, no, they didn’t do anything. Like the one goes to jail and the other one free and gets to take the money that they stole. Right, and vice versa. But if they both write each other out, they both go to jail and neither of them get the money. The best outcome for people who are doing this over and over and over and over again over the long term tends to be they both mutually support each other. That’s where the best outcome is over the long term. Right. But there’s that incentive for one person to kind of play the mean card and the other to play the nice card, the one to play the mean card, because, hey, I don’t want to end up in a worse situation than the other one and that other one to get away with. So some people sort of preemptively play the mean. Now, experiments of this have been done. Like in a one off situation, there’s a certain strategy, but there are others where they play, like, thousands of versions of this game and to where you can publicly see what other people do and you know what you did. And one of the winning strategies is called *** for Cat, which is you are kind to people, you play the nice card first, and then if they don’t play the nice card the next time, you retaliate. And that ended up being the strategy that won anyway. There are dozens of documented strategies, more complicated ones than this one, but I think there’s a lot to learn from this about the trust and so on. But that’s the problem that we’re in. It’s the Prisoner’s Dilemma. And I know there’s already an innovator’s dilemma, but here’s a new.
[01:33:48] Susie: Well, thank you, Elijah, on that high. Always. It’s such a pleasure. I get so much energy from having these conversations. And talking of catalysts, I think that’s one of the things that does help is finding other people who you can spark off, whether they’re in your organization or out of your organization. Like having these people.
[01:34:17] Elijah: Yeah, I think last time there was one of your closing words. You said it was kind of cathartic when we spoke. I feel that, I think to a degree, yeah.
[01:34:28] Susie: Cathartic and energizing today, I would say.
[01:34:31] Elijah: Yeah, for me, not for you, because.
[01:34:32] Susie: You’re going to bed.
[01:34:33] Elijah: But yeah. 12:30 a.m. Yeah. Awesome.
[01:34:38] Ed: Well, thank you and good night.
[01:34:41] Elijah: Yeah, thank you too. That’s for sure. Thank you so much. Thank you, everybody, for listening. If you’d like to connect with Ed or Susie, you can find links in the show notes. Also links to topics we’ve covered. Lastly, do us a favour and share this episode with someone or even a few people that might be interested. Happy learning.