I recently re-read an article in the Harvard Business Review about how to incorporate “everyday innovation” into business to help reach consumers and decrease bottlenecks.
It got me thinking about the concept of innovation and how unapproachable it felt, at times, as a dental practice owner.
I was so busy working in my practice that the concept of working on my practice felt overwhelming at times. But no matter how overwhelming it felt, I also never lost sight of its importance and what it meant to leadership.
Innovation Does Not Have to Be Huge to Be Impactful
In this article, Scott Anthony, the co-author of Eat, Sleep, Innovate, says:
“Innovation doesn’t have to land in the headlines to have an impact. Everyday innovation can be critical to long-term business success.”
That is a stunning concept; innovation does not have to be huge to be impactful.
And, as dentists, a piece of our innovation is creating a culture in which our team feels empowered to innovate.
It is not squarely on our shoulders to be the source of our innovation and practice development. It does, however, fall in our scope to build the foundation upon which our team is inspired and equipped to innovate.
How To Build This Culture In Your Team
There are some important ways to build this into the fabric of our organizational culture.
1. Embrace Failure
Think of the last time you tried something new.
I will bet there was a learning curve, some mistakes that encouraged that learning, and a little bit of self-doubt.
I will bet that it was not easy or very smooth.
There is always some imperfection when it comes to innovation because research has definitively shown us that learning cannot happen outside of your comfort zone.
2. Be Willing To Pivot
When you or your team innovate, pivoting is a necessary step.
So your job as a leader is to create a safe playground for innovation … and a critical piece of that is normalizing failure.
I often tell my students that the path to success is littered with moments of failure. You have to get through failure to get to success. Rinse and repeat.
3. Celebrate Failure
So how does a culture weave failure into who they are? Is this even something I want to do in my practice? Isn’t failing bad?
Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg, the founders of The Skimm, had a tradition they created in their start-up. They bought a hard hat from a construction depot and labeled it the Fail-So-Hard-Hat.
As two former news producers, their mission was to change the accessibility and integration of media consumption for the average American and their concept was innovative.
They knew they needed to create a team of everyday innovators to make their company what it is today (with 7 million subscribers and growing). And they recognized innovation does not happen without failure.
So, at every Friday team meeting, the Fail-So-Hard-Hat became a coveted prize. Any team member who had tried something new, big, and exciting and had encountered failure would win.
They got to keep the hat on their desk for the remainder of the week, a visual (and very bright orange) reminder of how important it was to step outside of your comfort zone.
Failure, and, by an extent, resiliency and trying again, became celebrated pieces of their culture.
Embrace Failure to Encourage Growth
In our dental practices, if we find ways to name failure without judgment, to separate failure from the worth, success, and value of our team, we will then be able to create a culture of innovation.
If we open our arms and embrace that turbulent and imperfect start, and recognize that it is just that, a start, then we will unlock the next level of innovation in our practice and in our leadership.
Note: Photo by Tomasz Stasiuk