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Choosing to be Open Minded: Part 1 of Building a Culture of Innovation

By Joey Havens

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Innovation is a key to our future success, and we can help build a culture of innovation within our own teams. This three-part series explores what it means to build a truly innovative culture at your business or firm.

Yes, I am tired of hearing about our world being transformed. I really am. I am also tired of hearing my wife, CeCe (a nickname from our grandkids), coach me on better eating habits by challenging my legacy thinking that if it’s healthy food, two or three servings will not hurt me. Does she get on my nerves at times? Yes! Has she helped me be more open minded about what it takes to eat healthier? Yes! I know that I owe her a big thanks for my progress (seven painful pounds so far) to getting healthier. I know at my age, my metabolism and body have changed, yet I want to cling to my old fun habits. My mind searches for things that support my old lifestyle and tries to stifle information that says I need to change. I realize that neither being tired of hearing about getting healthier or simply knowing about it is going to help me be any healthier. It’s time for me to be more open minded.

Deep down, we know things have sped up and the change we are seeing is disruptive. In the taxi business, it’s Uber; in hotels, it’s Airbnb; with cinemas, it was Netflix and with retail stores, Amazon (that just bought Whole Foods, so we can anticipate some disruption in the grocery business, too).

Innovation expert and strategic advisor Daniel Burrus says that in the next five years we will transform how we market, sell, communicate, collaborate, innovate and educate. Not change, but TRANSFORM. CEOs are stating that the next three years are more critical than the past 50, with 4 out of 10 stating they’re transforming how they do business during the next three years. This includes 62% who are planning to deploy disruptive technology and 65% who will be partnering to meet the speed of the change.

While 88% of CEOs report that building an organization for the future is of high importance, only 11% reported they understood how. In a McKinsey Poll where 84% of global executives reported that innovation was extremely important, 94% were dissatisfied with their organization’s innovation. WOW! What could be killing innovation when 84% of executives realize it is extremely important to survival and growth?

We are at a defining moment! Can we embrace the brutal reality that our status quo or present business models will not work? Can we embrace the brutal reality that lots of really smart people who understand the need for innovation and who are making it a priority are still failing at it?

Can we afford a “Kodak moment” now? Kodak knew everything that we know today, yet they were not open minded enough to challenge their legacy beliefs and business model. We do not want to be in that picture—a profession or business clinging to yesterday as the world speeds by. Being open minded means having the uncommon discipline to actually seek information that challenges our beliefs, and especially our business models. Can we work to mitigate the bias of our desires for the status quo? It may not be easy or comfortable, yet it is the first step to building a culture of innovation. Our challenge is to constantly work to shake loose of conventional wisdom, group think and complacency.

In a time of rapid, disruptive change, we cannot remain relevant without innovation. We also have an abundance of opportunity, especially in the accounting profession, because we have the skills and insights that companies will need to go forward.

Let’s set down our suitcase of legacy beliefs, leave the baggage behind, and make every effort to become aware of when our brain is acting against us—you know it is programmed to filter things and highlight things that support our beliefs and discount things that do not support them. Call ourselves out. Call out each other. (And no, CeCe, I am not eating a brownie right now. She is calling me out again even as I try to write this blog. Amazing how that helps me challenge my old habits.)

Let’s take this first step together, practicing being open minded and openly challenging our business models. Practice seeking new information and challenging our assumptions and beliefs first and foremost. Challenging the status quo is the beginning of building a culture of innovation. (Snack time! Just kidding, CeCe.)