Rita J. King, co-director and EVP for business development at Science House, recently conducted a series of interviews with business leaders, exploring the challenges and hurdles companies face in evolving business landscapes. In this interview, King chats with James Jorasch, founding CEO of Science House, about the importance of innovation and how to inspire and harness the creative talent in your workforce.
Here are some highlights from their conversation:
It’s important, Jorasch says, to appropriate the techniques of innovation that bring together ideas from disparate sources and apply those to people in your company. “We need people also to collide; people with different perspectives, different concepts, different ideas need to come together over and over again.” He also notes that invention isn’t only an innate talent; it can also be a learned skill. “We train many people, and I would say that everyone can invent. Believe in yourself, relax, find a problem, come up with a solution, keep going. It’s not a complicated thing. Just believe in yourself and try. Trying is probably 90% of it.” (05:15)
To effectively get the creative juices flowing, Jorasch recommends ditching large meetings, as they allow people to avoid contributing by simply hiding in the crowd. “When you bring a meeting down to just two people, there’s no hiding, there’s no, ‘Well, I’m going to be on my cell phone. We’re working on this.’ There’s no getting away from what you’re there to do. It is that sense of focus that you get from two people that really ignites the imagination process.” That focus, he says, is key to addressing the new challenges coming. “There’s a lot that can be accomplished from creative pairs. It is a purpose driven, very focused way of tackling problems, and tackling very complicated and very deep problems. It takes away everything else—you’re lasered in on that one thing for, potentially, hours at a time. And that’s what it takes, right? 10-second solutions are not going to cut it in this world.” (07:29)
The data Science House has gathered from large companies over the years has afforded interesting insights into the changing nature of management, Jorasch says. For instance, in our increasingly Agile approaches to business and systems, the well-established, traditional hierarchy of individual contributor, manager, director, VP, SVP, and so forth, is no longer a great fit. “We have rules around the standard hierarchy,” he observes. “We don’t really have rules, per se, around Agile. And we’re seeing a collision of managers and directors now saying, ‘I’ve been a director for 15 years—what’s my role now with these Agile teams?’ People are starting to question what it is they’re supposed to do.” And it’s not only evolving cultures and approaches challenging leaders, but evolving technologies, too. “The idea of using microservices, for example, is a very different way of thinking,” he notes. “Those managers and directors and VPs are evolving from managing people to managing a process or managing mindsets and skills of the workers, and managing problems or managing the information flow into these groups. That’s going to require a very different set of skills and new types of training.” (13:10)
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