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Drayton had a reputation as an around-the-clock worker, but one with a creative streak. “Much of what he did was very innovative and very controversial,” Gamse says. “A lot of times my first reaction would be, ‘This is crazy. This has no chance of happening!’ And then Bill wouldn’t let go.” He’s famous in policy circles for launching emissions trading, otherwise known as cap and trade, whereby companies can choose how to meet environmental targets, by reducing their own emissions, say, or paying another company with a better environmental record for emissions “credits.” Drayton always understood that good policy ideas often come from entrepreneurs. An ideal Ashoka project isn’t about a particular school or hospital; rather, it helps eliminate a systemic weakness. … “Once they’ve had an experience where they’ve had an idea, built a team, and changed their world, they have their Ph.D.s in the most important skill in the world,” Drayton says. “Life is no longer repetition and following orders. They have the skill that society is desperate for. And,” he adds, “it’s fun.” Bloomberg Businessweek, May 14, 2018. Pursuits: Bill Drayton. Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash.

I loved the Air Force. There were so many things that we could do and solve and improve and we were doing it for a higher purpose, a noble goal of national and even world safety. However, many people didn’t like all these creative ideas. The number of times I was told not to do something or that it wouldn’t work are uncountable (well, lots, more than I can recall).

So, do we want everyone doing these creative things all the time? Nope. At least not in my experience. I found that I needed most of my team to just come in, do a good job, and then go home and enjoy the other part of their life. At any one time I only needed a few of my folks breaking new ground or doing something new and unusual. We would then incorporate these new ideas, solutions, etc., into our daily processes and everyone would eventually adopt them.

However, it wasn’t always the same people that came up with the new or interesting ideas. It was often someone who simply started to do something different in their job and then we’d noticed it and adopted it for the rest. Of course there are people who are continually creative and always coming up with something new. The catch with these folks is that a lot of ideas are not usable or relevant at any given time and so my overly creative people (I’m also guilty) could get frustrated with too many of their ideas not being noticed.

It is critical to point out that most of the great ideas didn’t come from a committee or were preapproved by management or originated from the expert we hired to help us improve. They just came from what were otherwise considered ordinary people doing their normal jobs everyday. So brilliance isn’t just a gifted individual, but brilliance is often just the ability to note and leverage the gentle brilliance that exists all around us.

See why we don’t often need experts

How are you helping the creative ideas of your team members to become innovations that propel your project to greater success?

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