Innovation via conversation

Conversations are at the heart of healthy organisations. Specifically, conversations that cut across hierarchy, seniority and roles, moving beyond day-to-day issues to organisational purpose and strategic aspirations. They’re an essential part of innovation and anyone can and should be involved, notes Rick Wartzman, Executive Director of the Drucker Institute in a Businessweek article about Louis Vuitton’s new CEO, Jordi Constans. The former Groupe Danone executive brings to the famed French luxury brand a well-articulated management philosophy around the need for employees who display openness, rapidity and agility. “Innovation comes from conversations,” Constans is quoted as saying. “You never forget a good conversation.” Fostering discourse among colleagues is, Wartzman says, an often-overlooked aspect of what management thinker Peter Drucker defined as “the task of giving human and material resources new and greater wealth-producing capacity”. Good conversations contain well-crafted questions that can shed new light on problems, raise interesting ideas or simply cement relationships.  Business leaders with a major change agenda are increasingly leaning toward appreciative inquiry (AI), a management method built on positive principles aimed at harnessing each individual’s talents and energies for the common good. Change expert Marvin Faure argues that AI has proved highly effective in effecting transformational change. At an individual level, AI sets a positive, energising tone, creates connections and reduces differences, and serves to reduce anxiety, Faure says in a research paper, ‘Problem-solving was never this easy’. “Another key characteristic of AI is the intent to involve the whole organisation in the process, under the theory that real change is more likely to occur when those most affected are given the opportunity to decide on the changes for themselves,” he says.

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