Distributing Power to Foster Innovation

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Author: Garrick Throckmorton– Chief Product and Services Officer

“You can’t solve a problem on the same level that it was created. You have to rise above it to the next level.” – Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein was one of the most innovative minds to have ever lived. When you lean into his quote above, you quickly realize the depth of thought he gave to problem solving. He knew that innovation was the process of solving a problem, or problems, by creating value through novel solutions. In our increasingly competitive, global environment, innovation has become more central to our ability to thrive as organizations as our enemy has become the status quo (ex – Blockbuster Video).

How does “power” impact our desire to support and encourage innovation? In “Seeing Systems,” Barry Oshry said that “All enterprises have tops, middles, and bottoms **who have different roles and key behavioral practices that enable the system to work. A key mistake is made when ‘power’ is assumed to always function from the top.” We surmise that power is one of the most important tools that can be used to help foster innovation, and if unchecked, to thwart innovation. Consider the following 7 typical forms of power and how they are demonstrated in your organization.

  1. Legitimate Power: This power happens when someone is in a higher position, giving them control over others.
  2. Coercive Power: Authority to impose punishments. “There is not a time of day when you should use it!”
  3. Expert Power: Influence by having a special knowledge or competency that others need.
  4. Informational Power: Exerting influence by controlling information.
  5. Power of Reward: Having the ability to distribute rewards for getting things done.
  6. Connection Power: Influence due to association with a powerful individual.
  7. Referent Power: Strong interpersonal skills result in collaboration and no reliance on command and control.

The good news? Power is real and when used in productive ways to create a learning environment that fosters innovation in unique ways for Leaders, Managers and Individual Contributors (because levels matter), you are able to tap into the wisdom of both Einstein and Oshry. We have mapped our performance libraries, at all levels, to pragmatically describe the most critical Roles and Practices needed at each level to foster innovation. Simply put, we have built the bridge for you between power and innovation.