How to Build a Culture of Innovation
Innovation is extremely important, in both our personal and professional lives. In this episode of The Motivational Intelligence Podcast, Sean Johnson and John Casey discuss what it takes to build a culture of innovation, starting with ourselves and bringing it to our place of work. They discuss how vital it is to have five specific components: accountability, adaptability, resilience, initiative and courage. These five components can help lead change within ourselves and those around us, especially in the work place. People tend to assume that change and innovation is hard to come by, but really all it takes is having the right mindset in order to begin. It is always possible to move forward if we want it bad enough. It is important to let go of fear and open up our minds. You definitely don’t want to miss this episode of The Motivational Intelligence Podcast, “How to Build a Culture of Innovation”. Tune in and let us know what you think and check us out on social media! Let us know what topics you would like to see us cover next.
How to Build a Culture of Innovation
Sean Johnson: Good to go.
John Casey: Let’s do it.
Sean Johnson: All right, we are back. John. This first time I’ve had a chance to do one of these with you. I’m kind of excited.
John Casey: Well, hang on. Here we go.
Sean Johnson: You got some wisdom for us, allegedly? All right, perfect.
John Casey: I’ll leave some on your way out the door. I’ll just make sure there’s still some left.
Sean Johnson: Okay. Alright, we’ll try to leave a little bit for you to take home with you. What I wanted to talk about today was, there’s a topic that seems to keep coming up, which is innovation and specifically building a culture of innovation.
I kind of wanted to pick your brain on that today. I think it is top of mind for a lot of people. We’re kind of in the innovation era, if you will. I saw there was a study that McKinsey came out with, that changes now happening 10 times faster, at 300 times the scale for 3000 times the impact. Obviously, this is like kind of a big deal for companies.
John Casey: Well, if you think about it, the speed of business has accelerated much in the last 20, 30 years. However, it is that the speed of business is not moving faster than the speed of thought. We’re still ahead.
We can still think faster than businesses, innovate. However, most people don’t think that they can think fast or be ahead of the curve, if you will. I’m sure we’ll touch more on that as we go. We’re still ahead of the speed of business, our own human mind and thought process.
Sean Johnson: Well, that’s definitely good news because obviously it’s becoming more and more of a competitive necessity these days. You have to innovate, and you have to innovate better and faster than you ever have before. And there’s crazy opportunity, you know, if you’re able to put that together and put that culture of innovation together, while we want to talk about this, you can be the next Netflix or Uber or Airbnb.
John Casey: You know, those were not first in their space necessarily, but they just came at it from a different angle or they disrupted the existing model through innovation. It’s kind of leveled the playing field where smaller companies can outpace some of the bigger ones in their space.
If they have that culture of innovation. And it’s not just organizations, it’s people too. They have to reinvent their own personal brand and how they present themselves to their organization or to the marketplace. That is something else that some older, tenured employees aren’t necessarily familiar with. They may struggle with and overlook the fact that they’ve got to innovate themselves.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. That’s a great point. We’ll definitely get into that because I think there’s a lot of directions we could take this conversation. Let’s have you give us a master class in “how do you build a culture of innovation?” Maybe the simplest place to start is what is the culture of innovation?
John Casey: A culture is important these days. And it’s not just in the workplace. Every home has a culture. Every group has a culture. And in all, a culture really is a shared set of beliefs that are embraced by all. And you know, these sets of beliefs come in many shapes and sizes. In the workplace, they are tied to “what does the team believe about the organization and what it does and why it exists, what the organization believes about their customers, their competitors, and each other.”
The other teams that make up the organization like senior management. The more you delve into culture, the more you realize there’s many layers and slices of it. However, there are five key components of any innovative culture or any successful organization or person for that matter, that seems to have stayed the same.
We know the pace of business is changing rapidly. Innovation, creativity, they are all happening. And it changes just omnipresent. However, there are five things that have always stayed the same as far as creating a culture of success or winning or innovation. These are the fundamentals, the basic building blocks of success including innovation.
And they are as, as you know, the listeners who are familiar with 2logical realize that’s what we call Motivational Intelligence. It is simply accountability, adaptability, resilience, initiative, and courage. Those five components are the drivers of not just innovation, but all human achievement.
Here’s the best news, Sean, we’re born with them. And it’s funny when you see a one year old child that really wants something. They don’t give up quickly, they stay focused and they keep closing, if you will. If you’re a salesperson, they’re always closing to ask.
They’re not afraid to ask. They’re not afraid to make a mistake in public. They have the courage to try something new because that’s all there is. Their whole world is new, human nature is something that’s precious. We’re born with this amazing spirit and what most people call “human nature,” what they really mean is human conditioning.
Because every time I hear, “well, that’s just human nature.” They don’t say it in a kind manner. It’s not a compliment, Yeah. It’s actually a dropdown from higher standards and that’s not the case. Human nature is pure spirit. It is that one year old child is learning how to walk. They will never give up on themselves, never judged themselves, and never quit. It’s that two year old that wants another cookie. They just will always ask and they’ll change decision makers and they’ll actually get a chair when the adults have left the kitchen, inclined to get the cookie. That drive, that motivation, that desire to pull yourself up or to learn something new is what we’re born with. And, you know, however it gets conditioned out. It takes real leaders in the workplace to often reignite that with their employees and their team members. Creating a culture of innovation really is the key to doing that. Culture is a shared dominant set of beliefs held by the group, and it actually becomes a filter that everything is seen through.
It’s funny, a lot of people when they pull into their parking lot, or if they’re working from home, they kind of get in their workspace and they almost take their existing glasses off and put on new glasses.
And I’m speaking metaphorically here. And these glasses, they become a filter with which they see things through. They may have to change their glasses multiple times a day, but the word “glasses “that many people put on are, are somehow limited or are they filtered out. You know, what is possible? The potential that we have as a group, each and every individual’s specialized knowledge that they can bring to bear. The fact that everybody on a team at work has become a master of hundreds or thousands of things over the journey of their lives. They’re very good at developing skills, whether it’s in their hobbies or just day to day managing a household. People are really good at developing new skills, innovating at home or in their hobby. It’s just that they don’t have that same way of thinking when they come to work. There’s a lot of things that we can do, but really the first key in creating a culture of innovation and creativity in the workplace is to really instill those five components of motivational intelligence.
Because you can’t innovate if you’re prone to excuse and blame. If you lack or don’t like change and your lack adaptability, innovation is out the window if you can’t stick with something new until you get some traction. If you don’t have that resilience, innovation isn’t going to happen. If there is no initiative being taken by individuals or teams within the company, the company’s not going to be able to innovate. And the courage to maybe let go of the status quo or the old way of doing things, has to be in place before innovation can become part of the culture. The first steps are creating a culture of motivational intelligence, which are the actual drivers of creativity and innovation and all of human achievements. that would be kind of the first step. And it’s a big step, and it’s aired as well.
Sean Johnson: There’s a lot to unpack there. I think I’d love to dive into those five things a little bit more in regard to how they relate to innovation.
But I kind of wanted to start with that definition of culture, it’s the dominant thoughts and beliefs of a group of people and obviously there’s their specific thoughts and beliefs relative to innovation and success, but it just seems to make much sense.
Looking at that, it’s kind of even looking outside the workplace, just in terms of cultures. Look at cultures around the world, and that’s really kind of what they are, right? It’s how a group of people in a certain country or of a specific religion or whatever it is, what they think and believe about the world. Right?
John Casey: Well, without question, we’re members of members of maybe dozens or scores of cultures. We cycle through different groups, if you’re a fan of a certain sports team, you have a shared set of beliefs, a dominant beliefs about that team.
And you know, they’re pretty common. If you meet a total stranger that happens to be a fan of the same team you are, you immediately have a bond. You immediately share me of the same beliefs, some of the same history, some of the same stories and examples, and it’s magic. And you know, you immediately have rapport with that person.
That’s pretty amazing. We bump through these different concentric circles or bubbles, if you will throughout our work day. And we all have one at home too. It’s interesting, most people unconsciously go throughout their day, not even realizing that they’re bumping around different cultures.
They get frustrated around, they should look a little closer at why they feel more comfortable in this culture or this group versus that one. One of the things we all know is that in someone’s hobby that they get to choose or someone’s group of friends that again, they get to choose. They have much higher level emotions in ways of looking at things than they do in other areas maybe that are not necessarily what they think their choices. We’ll delve into some of this a little bit more, but just being aware of the different cultures that you move throughout during the day.
And in most people’s hobbies they are innovative. They push themselves, they read periodicals about that hobby or that sport or that interest. They are interested in new technology about that hobby without being told they will do discretionary effort put themselves out there and learn new things and try new things.
And it’s their hobby. That could be brought into work too. That same type of mentality. you know, same is true for other things that people feel really competent about. they are open to trying new things and pushing themselves. I know a lot of golf hobbyists, they read the magazines and they buy the new clubs and they’re up on the latest techniques and all of that.
And I’m thinking that’s exactly how you succeed at work too, if you want to be innovative. The biggest challenge is most people don’t believe they’re good at change or innovation. And frankly that “thought” is the problem because they’re probably wrong.
They probably are fairly adept at it in certain areas of their lives, and then they overlook it. They kind of look at their whole realm of innovation, as something that they’re not good at because they’re not good ended up at work or in this pocket of their life. And then they use that to spread throughout, that’s how they see everything.
I know most people are far more powerful and capable than they think they are. I think it was Michelangelo that said, “most people don’t aim too high and, and miss, they, they in too low and hit.” One of the most important things about really creating a culture of innovation and creativity is removing some of the flawed or limited beliefs about people’s ability to do it, or an organization’s ability to do it.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. What are some of those flawed or limiting beliefs or thoughts about it, that people should be looking out for?
Because I think there’s a good point that you brought up earlier where, People think of human nature as a negative, but it’s really more human conditioning. And if you go back to what is actually human nature, people are born with all of these things, it’s almost not even adding new layers, but kind of removing the layers that have been conditioned on top of them, to get them where they need to go.
John Casey: If we can plot out when the first year a human makes an excuse, it’s not until after maybe even four or five.
They are not pointing fingers, until much later in their life. We’re born without any skill. We got this blank slate. We get three gifts at birth, unlimited potential, a human mind; the most powerful supercomputer we’ll ever use in our lives, and we get a blank slate.
We’ve decoded the entire human genome. 85% go to the central nervous system, and our brain, 15% goes to our physical characteristics. No genes really go to skill. We have to develop those on our own. And you know, we’re born without any skill, and if you think about it, a baby sets out very early in their lives.
As they realize that they’re the only one crawling. It takes a long time to get from point A to point B. They figure out that they have to learn how to walk. You know, we’re not genetically wired to walk, we have to figure it out. And that’s one of the hardest things we’ll ever do.
It takes many, many months to do it, and we fall down to 140 to 280 times. We don’t see mistakes the same way. And eventually we figure out mobility and then communication, and then personal hygiene and all these things. By the age of four or five, we’ve actually started to develop hundreds of abilities, skills, things that we can do. And they’re all through innovation because they’re all foreign, unknown at the outset. We are amazing innovators, very early and often in our lives. And if you think about most adults today, Sean, I suspect most people know how to do hundreds or thousands of things.
Sean Johnson: It’s probably pretty staggering if you actually took pen to paper with it.
John Casey: I know that you know how to use thousands, maybe scores of computer programs, software programs. I don’t, but you know, that all of those didn’t come easily. You’ve had to figure out how to do so. We’re really good at change. We’re really good at innovation.
We’re really good at learning new things. We’re really good at developing a new skills, patterns or habits. Most people just don’t think they are. And when it comes down to it, the old saying goes, “if you believe it, you can achieve it.” If you can think it and if you can create it in your mind, you can find a way to do it.
That is a message that everybody should remind themselves periodically and then share amongst others. Because as individual professionals, as members of families and as employees, we have to make ourselves better. It’s our responsibility. We have to innovate.
We have to find ways to do our job better. We have to find suggestions. We can help our organizations; we have to become better at our roles. We want to be better at home and work. And just the fact that I believe that every child believes their “best them” is still in their future.
I believe even for us, some of us old dogs, that are our “best us” is in our future. Let’s go meet him. Let’s go find him. Let’s run towards that person. And you know, it’s fraught with some risk and maybe making a mistake or two. What did we learn more from, mistakes or successes? I think it’s mistakes. There’s some pitfalls that most people fall into when they want to be more innovative and creative, however they’re created by themselves or imaginary. Most barriers are fake.
Sean Johnson: You kind of touched on them, but I think it would be helpful. What are those pitfalls. What are those barriers? What are those flawed or limiting thoughts or beliefs that are holding people back?
John Casey: “I can’t do it. This is easier for others. I’m good at those things over there, but not this thing. Other companies do it better. Other people do it better. I don’t have enough education. I have too much education. I have the wrong education.” There are many fake things and frankly, excuses or rationalization is a lot easier to throw out there than to actually mentally do the work to figure out what is in fact holding me back.
It is artificial and why am I letting that bug me? That doesn’t stop the two year old, why is it stopping me? It’s an imaginary barrier. The greatest paralyzer in all of human history is fear and self-doubt. And it’s made up in the mind of the individual; ironic, crazy thing of imaginary stuff. The antidote to self-doubt and fear is something else that’s also imaginary, which is courage. Little kids seem to have a lot of but adults don’t seem to have much of anymore. And I don’t think there’s a fuel tank that gets filled when we’re born, and then as on as you use it all, it’s gone.
I think we can fill up the tank anytime we want. Maybe it’s returning back to the fundamentals of success, because we are born innovative and creative, and we don’t stop until pretty much we’re told to stop. And that usually begins at about the age of four and five.
And then limits are placed upon this unlimited potential we’re born with. Most people then take some of those flawed and limited beliefs into the workplace with them, or they take them to school. And you know, I remember when I was in school, I felt I was good at this subject, but not that one.
And the grades agreed. Maybe it was my thoughts that kicked off of the whole thing. You know, a lot of the stinking thinking that grownups have, have developed over the course of their journey is flawed. It is inaccurate. They’ve actually done a pretty good job of spreading it though.
When we speak about culture, it is a mass invisible force. And if you can create a culture of innovation and creativity. Then that has a life of its own. Then those are the glasses. Those are the filters that people put on in the parking lot before they walk into their workspace or before they actually get in their workspace.
If they are working out of their home and really set their head about what it is that they have to do that day. Most people unconsciously don’t do a very good job of setting the mindset, their mindset for their day. But once it’s done, at some of those companies that you read about, some of the great innovators from all time, or some of the new ones, they really do have a process for creating a culture of innovation.
And it’s not something that’s hard to do, because it’s the truth. Everyone’s adaptable. Everyone’s accountable or has demonstrated it in pockets of their life. Everybody has exhibited resilience. Everybody has taken the initiative, and everybody’s demonstrated courage. These five things are not foreign to humans or organizations. And you know, all companies really need to do is look back at their last innovation. Look back at the last time they were creative. And try to examine what were the shared dominant beliefs at that time, and then get a whole lot better at duplicating that.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. I think it would be helpful. I think it’s coming back to, kind of summarizes, a lot of what you’ve been talking about. It’s really making sure that we’re instilling the proper beliefs, in ourselves, in our team and across the organization.
That is going to set us up for this culture of innovation, where we can pump out these new inventions and new products and new services and new ways to look at things. Maybe it’d be helpful if we break it down into those three categories of: “if I’m an individual, how do I go about rebranding myself into becoming more innovative.” And then we can go into, “if I’m the leader of a team, what do I do?” And “if I’m an executive looking to instill this across thousands of people, how do I go about that?”
John Casey: You bet! Well we can actually break that down in the order of what we think is the flow of motivational intelligence.
And it all starts with accountability. As an individual contributor or as an employee of an organization, one of the worst ways you can brand yourself is by making an excuse. Giving up, rolling up the white flag. Yes, it’s easy to do and it releases pressure if you have an out. But it doesn’t brand you for the long term very well. Most people give up far too quickly and then they have an out, they point to another team, perhaps at their company as the problem, or the customer or the market or the government or their boss or whatever. And that is a slow, torturous route to mediocrity and a bad professional reputation.
It was Benjamin Franklin that said, “those that are good at making excuses are seldom good for anything else.”
Sean, it doesn’t matter what your IQ is, how many letters you have at the end of your name, regarding formal education. It doesn’t matter who your grandparents or parents were.
If you’re an excuse maker, a blamer, or a finger pointer, you’re not necessarily going to be seen as a good team member or people are not going want to work with you. Accountability. Owning it. And that can take several forms. The first is “how do I master my role as quickly as possible?”
My master, my role at work. If you’re a parent, how do you master your role as a parent? If you have a life partner, how do you master your role as a life partner? Other than that, what other roles do you want to master? There’s probably not many. The key to it, per individual contributor is to really own that mastery of holding yourself accountable not pointing fingers, not making excuses, really just making that decision. You draw a line in the sand.
Sean Johnson: I think that’s probably part of the limiting thing for a lot of people, they don’t look at it as a “decision.” They’ll look at it like it’s not even in their control.
John Casey: Yeah. You know, of course. They can make an excuse to support another excuse. And then they got a house of cards that can easily be blown over. And you know, sadly, they are probably exerting the same amount of mental time and energy to come up with defending their excuses than it would’ve taken to actually find a new way of looking at the problem and trying a different way.
One of the ways to do this, as a boss or culture, is to create a “no complaints without suggestions” approach to engaging your team members to engaging your other teams, to really looking at any problem or a project when people start to put the white flag up. Put it on them, “what do you suggest?”
Sean Johnson: Yeah.
John Casey: Doing this, as far as a culture, regarding accountability you can do that right from the recruiting and interviewing and onboarding process. You define the culture; this is who we are. This is why we exist. This is what we do. This is why our standards are higher than anybody else’s.
And by the way, championship teams don’t point fingers. We don’t make excuses at this company, and this is right in the orientation, right in the interview, we don’t say things like, “it’s not my job” or “they didn’t call me back” or “that’s why I didn’t get it done,” you know, the common excuses, “that’s above my pay grade” or “No, I’m not trained for that. Nobody showed me where I could find out where to get the integration.”
None of that needs to be in place, ever. It’s funny when people are in a job, they do that job probably more than anybody else. There might be a couple of people that do it at their company, but when you think about it, nobody does their job more than they do. shouldn’t they be the expert? Shouldn’t they be the one that come up with suggestions on how to make it better? It should be their responsibility because they’re an expert. Nobody does it better. And instead of just complaining about the hard stuff or the difficult stuff that they have to do, make a suggestion. “No complaints without suggestions” is a real key cornerstone of a culture that holds themselves accountable.
Sean Johnson: Yeah, I think probably for a lot of culture, it’s making people feel empowered to be able to do that, to make that change or to be able to make that improvement where they don’t feel like they’re going to get slapped down or they’re going to get in trouble for trying to find a better way.
John Casey: Empowering, is just that. It is an uplifting thing, instilling a no complaints without suggestions. Culture is just a way to elevate your employees. Even newer employees, younger employees, “Hey, listen, we love your fresh perspective. And, you know, you’ve been doing this a lot. It might only be three months or six months, but what do you like about what you do? What frustrates you about what, what you do? What suggestions might you have. You are our latest expert in this area and we want to know what you think about improving it.” I love asking this question a lot to folks, “if this were your small family business, what would you do differently?”
That’s a great question, giving them the platform that they’ve earned, they’ve deserved, they do their job more than anybody else does. Let’s elevate them, put a spotlight on them and ask them how they would improve it and why. And you know, that’s a very subtle way to really instill some of this accountability. That’s really one of the first cornerstones of innovation. Creativity.
Sean Johnson: Yeah, for sure. And it seems like it would be a domino that would knock into a lot of the other characteristics and cornerstones that you were talking about. I mean, even just that ended up where you have no excuses or no complaints without solutions or suggestions. And empowering people to make those changes, that’s inherently going to make you more adaptable.
John Casey: Well, you know, it’s funny that you say that that, that’s exactly right. The, the first two components are the first and the last component of motivational intelligence accountability and courage are actually like umbrellas that go over all the other ones as well, because we need a little bit of accountability and a little bit of courage throughout all of those other ones.
That’s exactly right, because if someone is prone to excuses and finger pointing. You’re right, they’re not going to be very adaptable, resilient. They’re not going to necessarily take initiative and whatever. There’ll be paralyzed by fear and doubt.
Sean Johnson: Kind of moving down the line, how should people be going about, either as an individual, leader of a team or an executive, overseeing an entire organization.
How can they make their themselves or their team or those thousands of people in their workforce? How can they make you become more adaptable?
John Casey: Well, you know, it’s funny. Adaptability is something that everyone’s good at, within their comfort zones. They know where people are confident. They push themselves where they lack competence. This is something that is not foreign to people. And I think as leaders, whether it’s self leadership or leading a team or leading an enterprise, it really is about reminding everybody of these principles that we have these things inside of us.
Why not collect stories for the individual on your team. First of all, if you’re a boss, hopefully you have built rapport with each and every team member and you know their strengths and weaknesses, you know where their sweet spots are outside of work, their hobbies, their faith or their family. Whatever it is that drives them out of work, you ought to know those things.
Building rapport and getting to know your people is important. And you know, if you work on a team, getting to know the teams that are on either side of you. Again, it’s called building rapport. It’s a huge leadership activity, but it’s through building rapport that you can really uncover the great tool, past examples. Success stories of where adaptability has been exhibited in their personal life outside of work. Maybe they had to work two jobs while they were going to college and taking classes and they just found out how to manage everything in the same 24 hours.
Reminding people of that adaptability when they were going through a difficult or a real trying time of her life is huge. What about past examples of where the company adapted and if it didn’t, it’d be out of business or where this team, maybe it was when the team was first created and how they found they’re footing, you know, there’s no shortage. And all of it got do is, is look for examples of where individuals, teams, or organizations have adapted before and just continue to tell those stories. They’re all over the news. They’re all over current events. Building rapport, knowing your people, and then really tell them that the stories that are not fact-based stories.
And that really helps give people that shot in the arm and that dose of confidence to say to themselves, “Wow, we can do this.” You know, how can we change the way we see this? How can we change the way we execute it and really have some more answers come from that approach?
Sean Johnson: Well, I would think even for external examples outside of individual or an organization. Just seeing that other people do, have done it and I’ve done it before, builds a lot of confidence. And then even on top of that, this notion that we’ve done this before, that is a huge confidence builder.
John Casey: And we all have multiple areas of our lives, and if you really want a really big shot in the arm, go find a one or a two year old and just observe them. That’s all they’re doing, and they seem to be very calm and relaxed. Doing it does seem to be pretty happy, the curiosity. That’s another thing that I think is a fuel source and a driver of innovation and creativity that gets overlooked. If you watch a one year old crawling around on the ground, and they’re just unaware. They’ve got little skills and experience, but yet they’re curious as all. They bump into any foreign object they’ve never seen before, and they stop. They slow down and take a close look at it and then they pick it up and they’re looking at it over and they’re feeling it.
And then of course, it goes in the mouth. A lot of young parents think that the kid’s going to eat that thing and they don’t know that they are not actually, they may, but what they are trying to do is understand it and they try to get all their senses involved. This is something new, “I really want to understand it.” They see it, touch it. They feel how heavy it is. And you know, it’s amazing that the curiosity, and of course when they turned two and three and four, they start to talk a little bit. And of course, there are favorite one word question is only three letters, and it is “Why?” And then the parent answers the question and they ask, “Why?” And then the three and four year old is twisting up their parent and they’re winning the “why” games.
Just because they ask “why” every time. And the parent gets frustrated very often and they’d say, because “I said so!” And then they begin to squash curiosity and then it gets conditioned out. But you know, here’s a tip for the parents that are losing the why game with the three and the four and the five-year-old.
Here’s how you win the game. When the three, four or five year old says, “Why mommy or why daddy?” And here’s our response, “Well, why do you think?” And that’s how you turn the tables and you win. Obviously, this is top of their mind. Let them have the first shot. Yeah. They are thinking about this topic.
Same is true at work, folks. When people come and ask you “why”, let them go first. That’s another great leadership tool. Letting others speak. We’re all adaptable. We’re all creative. We’re all innovative. And it comes down to that curiosity. Draw it out through “why “questions, and you’ll probably get a lot more purchasing. People kind of come into the way you see things but then figuring out how they see it initially is another good step as well.
Sean Johnson: Alright, let’s keep going down the line. I think that’s a point well taken, tying back to what you had said, what really is human nature? Humans are curious by nature and I think it’s important to remember that you know in terms of innovation because those curiosities are all ultimately, oftentimes what ends up to the breakthrough idea.
John Casey: We don’t shine. We don’t need anything new. Everything we need to build an innovative future, the life that we’ve dreamed of. The next iteration of our team or our firm, everything we have, everything we need, we already have and it’s all on the inside. It’s our own wisdom. It’s our own experience. It’s our own way of looking at things as our own way of questioning. and we can drive it up or it down and we get to pick which, which direction we go in.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. If we keep going, the next pillar we’re talking about is resilience. And if I’m an individual or I’m a leader, or I’m an executive, how do I go about becoming more resilient or making my team or organization more resilient?
John Casey: Well, there’s a couple of ways to do it. Never ever say, “We tried that once. That should be stricken from the corporate lexicon.”
Because I know few, if any, things that worked the first time. It’s funny, we asked some of our clients, “hey, have you tried this or that?” And they are like, “yeah, we tried that once. Three years ago, it didn’t work. We’re not going to do it again.”
And that’s obviously not the right way of thinking. We go back to telling stories. If you studied Thomas Edison, on his 10,000 try, he was right. It took them 10,000 failed experiments to create the incandescent light bulb, to make one that actually worked.
He just never gave up. He was lambasted for being a big failure and he said to the reporter that called them the biggest failure in America, because he tried and failed 10,000 times to do something, He said, “No, you’re looking at it wrong. I successfully identified 10,000 ways in which it wouldn’t work.” And then he tied that down with, “I guess it was a 10,000 step project.”
Sean Johnson: You know, going back to the one year old learning how to walk, that’s such a different way of looking at it that. It’s a great story, but if you really slow down and think about it, that is different than the way most people would look at that. They’d be in their head, feel like they’re pounding their head against a brick wall.
I wonder if he sat after each failed experiment, “well, one step closer. That’s one more I can cross off.” But you’ve got to imagine something like that is all that it could have been keeping them going, because if he didn’t really, if he wasn’t saying that, you know, at what point was he getting frustrated and throwing in the towel?
John Casey: You know, maybe he just reminded himself after every failed experiment of when he was a child. That he fell down 240 to 280 times before he figured out how to walk. And by the way, those statistics are valid and they apply to everybody who is walking. The resilience to stick with it and do it with the right headset is really the key. It goes back to how we look at mistakes and feedback. The stakes are okay, as long as we don’t repeat them. We learned more from them than we do our successes. Clearly you know, people have the wrong view of mistakes. They avoid activities or people or opportunities where they could make them.
And if you’re afraid to make mistakes, guess what? You aren’t going to be a good innovator. Yeah. Because you’ll be gripped by how people might see me if I make a mistake or if I get this wrong, or maybe I’ll just sit back and continue to analyze and get paralyzed and do nothing.
And you know, take the feedback that you get. If you look at feedback the right way you never lose. You either win or learn. If it goes the way you want, you win. If it doesn’t, you learn something, you get an education.
I think people have to look at life as a “win or learn” philosophy rather than win or lose. I think win or lose, if people look at this thing in front of me or this goal or this project or whatever it is, they look at it as a “win or learn.” Our “win or learn” thing they’re going to shrink and they’re not going to push themselves as fast or as far as they could.
That’s why some of the two logical folks say today “I want to learn every morning in the mirror regardless if I’m working or not. Because every day can be put into one of those two categories. And winning are learning. They’re both positive. And that’s how you can build every day as positive winner.
Sean Johnson: Alright, that’s a good one. How about initiative? If I’m trying to get myself going. I can’t seem to get myself, whether it is at work or, you know, a lot of people have that feeling, “I can’t seem to get myself to the gym or I can’t seem to,” whatever it is, they feel stuck.
“How do I get myself going? I’m a leader, how do I get my team going?” Or “How do I get these 5,000 people working for me as an executive going?”
John Casey: Initiative. I’ve never met a non-goal directed one or two year old. As a matter of fact, that’s how they build their day, usually through goals. Anybody that’s studied human psychology and the human mind knows that goals are software for the mind. However, most adults aren’t goal-directed. Most adults have never even taken the time or energy to write down a list of goals or dreams. And fewer, still way less than 1% have actually built a plan on how to achieve those goals or dreams. That’s the first solution become more goal directed and there’s a simple way to do it. We have encouraged organizations to do this with our employees. And even in their onboarding process. It’s a simple exercise. Anybody can do it, it’s called making a “be, do and have list.”
And if you like to travel, you can add a fourth category, “go”. But to really become more goal directed and a more initiative prone, it requires goals and having a list of things that you want to “be, do, and have” is the first step because goal directed people that understand what they want to be do and have moved differently than everybody else.
They’re better at saying no. They’re better at saying yes. They’re better at making sacrifices. They’re better at time management. They’re better at many things. Just because they have goals and they keep them top of mind. I had a mentor very early in my life that made me do one of these “be, do, have” lists.
And it was foreign to me. I’d never written down a goal in my life. And it was awkward, and I was embarrassed to do it and I didn’t want to do it. And then eventually I just started writing some things and then it kind of took on a life of its own. And then, you know, over the course of 20, 25 minutes, I had had over 60 things.
Simple stuff, but also big stuff too. And my boss took the time to ask me, “what was on my list that I was really wanted,” and it was buying my first house. And he made that important to him. And you know, I was a sales guy with a quota and he rarely, if ever spoke about quota. He spoke about the plan to get the house. In 16 months, after I did my first “be, do, have” list, I bought my first house. And I said “no” to things that wouldn’t help me. And I said “yes” to things that would. I got better at a lot of things because I became more goal directed and I took the initiative and it was my goal, it wasn’t my boss’s goal.
I have taken that “be, do, have” list exercise. And I’ve done it with many people, including my children. I want them to grow up goal directed, having initiative personal and professional goals, knowing what your team goals are, knowing what your company goals are, knowing what the goals are and where initiative is being taken by the other teams that you’ll work with.
Finding out all that is really important to be a great individual contributor. To be a great boss or to be a great executive. It is about goal direction. I’ll never forget the very first time I made a list of my goals, the things that I wanted to “be, do, and have.” My mentor was leaving his office that day and he said to me, “John, you did something really, really important today. Something that many have never done, or never will do.” And he says, “never forget the following, If you are not working on your own goals, you are working on someone else’s.”
Sean Johnson: That’s very true. And I think you touched on an important point there too, which is not only particularly from a leadership perspective, not only making sure people know the company goals are the team goals, but you know, what your mentor did was really aligned that with your personal goals. You know, he wasn’t talking to you about your specific work goal. He wasn’t talking to you about the quota, he was talking to you about the house. And I think that that alignments an important point.
John Casey: Well, like all great mentors. The very simple philosophy of the following statement, “it is always in the want two, that people will discover the how to.” And all he did was continued to stoke my want to, to buy the house. And it was funny. If I had a bad week of production or no production and he’d got the report all ready and he’d say, “John, tell me about your productivity this week.”
And I’d have to say that it wasn’t all that good. And he would usually say something like,” are you telling me you don’t want the house anymore?” and I would say, “Oh, No I do.” He goes, “all right, let’s figure out how to get back on track. Metrics, spreadsheets, reports, they don’t motivate or inspire anybody. Your first house does.”
And that’s what he would use, he would always make it my idea to push myself higher and farther and produce more. And you know, after I got the house, he said, “alright, what’s next?” And then we moved on to another one. It was a great experience as a young professional. Everybody can be their own best mentor if they understand motivational intelligence and how important, innovation and creativity are not just in their profession but in their life.
Sean Johnson: Yeah, for sure. Let’s tie it up with the other umbrella that we mentioned at the beginning of this. The first being accountability, and the second pillar of motivational intelligence being courage. Fear can be paralyzing. And I think that’s something pretty much everybody listening to this, I know, myself included, we’ve all experienced that emotion of fear. If you are gripped with that or you’re a leader and you can sense that your team has gripped with that or there’s something going on in the industry and the whole company is kind of freaking out about something, how do you instill that sense of courage?
John Casey: As we go through the single digits and move towards adolescents. Most grownups I see are just paralyzed by fear that’s imaginary. And frankly, 90% of what most people worry about is wrong because 90% of what most people are worried about is either a stuff that happened in the past, stuff they have no control over or negative stuff that will never happen in the future. And it dominates their mind all day long. No wonder they don’t get much done.
Sean Johnson: Yeah, I think it was the Mark Twain quote. It was, “I’ve experienced a great many troubles in my life, most of which never happened.”
John Casey: Our imagination, you know, talk about innovation and creativity and the fuel of that is imagination. But sadly, most people use their imagination to grip themselves with fear. They contemplate all the worst case scenarios that can happen and that negatively predetermined in the outcome of something before it happens.
It increases the likelihood of it turning out negative. Fear paralyzes the heck out of you. Maya Angelou said that “courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.” Where people feel strong and confident in their comfort zones, the things they think they’re good at, the things they like to do, they seem to have courage, to push themselves a little bit further.
But it’s outside of their comfort zone, where the courage seems to go away and fear seems to take its place. And that’s where they’re gripped a little bit. One of the things that leaders or anyone can do is just to remind ourselves all the time on our journey that we’ve faced fear and doubt and blasted through it. Overcame it.
Whether it was the first big presentation or the first sale, or the first this, that, or the other. If we can let it paralyze us if we want, but we don’t have to. It is imaginary, it goes back to some of the success stories where we’ve exhibited before as a team or as an industry or as a company.
Another leadership tool that we haven’t really addressed, that applies to all five, is what we tell ourselves over and over again. Whether you call it affirmation or auto suggestion, or neural linguistic programming or mantra or prayer or inner voice or self-talk, it’s all the same thing. It’s how we communicate with ourselves. It goes back to that formative age in our lives between four and seven where we go into that stage believing we’ve got all five components of motivational intelligence. We’ve got unlimited potential. We’re unstoppable. We have no fear.
What’s a child born with? Well, they’re not afraid of the dark, because that was the first home. They’re not afraid of the water, cause that’s where they used to live. They’re not afraid of tight spaces because they love the womb. And you know, you have a newborn, you swaddle them, they stop crying. We’re born with two fears, the fear of being hungry. I mean, what else? I mean, the fear of loud noises. Well, anybody’s startled when they hear loud noises behind them. it’s like maybe one fear. All other fears have to be taught and conditioned in.
And that happens between the ages of about four and seven. If you think about what happens in that very important stage of our development is, we learn how to speak to ourselves. And sadly, most people don’t do a very good job and they learn by an untrained professional, often the grown up, one of them, or two of them, or three of them that raise them and they’re untrained.
“You’re just a blank.” “You can only do blank.” They ask “why?” “Because I said…” They squash that and they don’t realize what they’re doing, but the child between four and seven is trying to figure out how to speak to themselves.
And they start to carry that forward through the rest of their journey and that’s one of the reasons why I avoided math and science. Cause I was told I wasn’t very good at it. Maybe the grades, I actually told the story. I avoided it. And I carry that forward with me. And I wish I had because I would like to be more formally educated and then those really important areas. I believe what I was told and one of the things we teach, of course, is re-examine how you talk to yourself. Listen for that inner voice inside your head. What are the dominant themes, especially about creativity or innovation, especially about going in this new direction at work or that focus in our home lives? What do you say to yourself over and over again?
Sean Johnson: I think most people don’t really even realize that they’re seeing these things in themselves. Like they don’t even realize that the tape is getting played. It’s just kind of autopilot.
John Casey: You know, the old saying goes, “you’re either creating a voice or following the voice.” But without question as soon as we wake up, there’s a conversation started in our head and we don’t shut up until we go asleep. Very few people actually listened to the voice, far fewer still engineer, proactively create the voice. I say the same thing every morning to myself, and the first thing is “today I want to learn.” And the other one is “stay above the line.”
Sean Johnson: What do you mean by stay above line?
John Casey: You know, the living above the line is where the higher forms of human emotion are service, hope, and gratitude. The components of motivational intelligence, all live above the line. Kindness, generosity, those wonderful components of really higher levels that we really have to be consciously aware of, versus the lower levels; hate, envy, greed giving up a resignation you know, superiority, ego.
Those are the lower levels of human emotion. Those are far easier, and they take a whole lot less mental effort to embrace then the higher levels of human emotions. You know, examining our own affirmations how we speak to ourselves, especially the dominant themes, are really one of the keys to igniting innovation, creativity, or any change.
Because if there are blockers, if there are affirmations that are really limited or flawed. those have to be examined and removed before we’re actually going to be able to reach up for higher levels of performance and success.
Sean Johnson: Well I think it’s that two step or two layers to it. One, just being aware of what you’re saying to yourself is the first part, and then to actually understanding that you’re in charge of that voice that.
Whatever’s being said, you can change it. You can decide to say something else. A lot of the times it’s even if they are aware, it’s out of my control or that’s just my brain or whatever it is. But they don’t really realize that, “hey, you could actually like adjust these settings a little bit.”
John Casey: It’s a good way. Every should have a mixing board in front of them that where they can show… “now let’s turn this one down, this one up.” And, you know, it goes back to this, this courage thing.
I think it was a reader’s digest article that said, “the number one fear is public speaking.” And then I’m going home, “what are the other fears people have?” And number two was death. It’s like, wait a minute…speaking in front of a group is the number one fear Americans have and dying is the second one?
I’m thinking, well, maybe they’re out of order there and you know, it’s like. Okay. If you have to give a eulogy at a funeral you’d rather be the one in the casket apparently, if that’s the way that goes. But, but it’s amazing to me. I’ve met many people that put themselves down. “I hate public speaking” or “I’m not good at public speaking.” And then I see them with their mates, with their friends, with their coworkers and they’re like the life of the party. They’re funny, extemporaneous, they’re not using a prepared speech. They’re just talking and they’re really quite engaging.
Most people I’ve met are really good speakers and they’re in public and they’re public speaking, and they’re good at it, but they immediately throw themselves under the bus. And that’s the problem. They underestimate their own worth in their own, an acumen for doing what it is that they’ve just put themselves. You’re right that the thought is the problem and it has to be adjusted on a dial or something. Most people are very comfortable with their own stinking thinking cause they’ve thought these things many times they’re comfortable. They don’t necessarily see the need to change. But those that are the agents of change are the ones that really get the, not only motivational intelligence, but al how we speak to ourselves and, and how to properly design and formally use affirmation.
Sean Johnson: It’s amazing, even just, you can kind of feel the emotion of when you direct your voice in a certain way. You say one thing to yourself and you say another thing to yourself. You know, I know for me it was a helpful exercise and kind of getting a feel for how powerful this could be, the emotion you feel when you’d say, “I’m not good at that, or I suck at that.” Versus the “I’m the man, I can do anything.” And it’s a completely different emotion. Which one would you rather feel?
John Casey: Yeah, we have it all in our bag of tricks. It’s just that people choose to pull out the wrong tools or use the tools for the wrong purpose.
And that’s part of the issue. It all goes back to we have all five of these components and we have used them our entire lives. And, and sadly, people overlook that fact that we are born without skill but we are all born with is motivational intelligence.
And the ability to innovate and create, and, you know, going back to that pure state of constant creation and innovation is, is, is fun. I mean, it’s, it is fun. You can build a culture around it and just have. Crazy fun conversations, me of which actually stick. A new way of looking at what we do and how we do it. And then getting the world to look at what we do and how we do it a little bit differently as well.
Sean Johnson: Yeah, absolutely. I think that kind of wraps up. I think this was a great chat about innovation and about culture and bringing those two things together. John, any final thoughts or anything that you want to leave listeners with to keep in mind?
John Casey: I’ll go back to Aristotle and you know, a very learned man taught very well by some very powerful teachers and was a great teacher himself. He said, “we as human beings only find happiness when we are in the pursuit of something that gives us a sense of growth and fulfillment.” Being goal directed, being innovative, pushing ourselves to the next level. It does come with some risks, but it’s far more fun and the growth that we feel.
And then, when we look back on our journey to realize all those milestones that we help create, that we help build. And yes, that we were scared at the outset, but we’ve found a way to go through it, to battle it, to recognize it, and then to put it down and to put courage in its place. These things are open to all of us and you know, the more you go down this path, the more you seek, the more you learn, the more you really try to expose yourself and motivational intelligence, the better off not only you’ll be, but those around you as well. They will be inspired by your new thinking and your new behavior. We can all be a catalyst for innovation and creativity because that’s the way we’re built.
Sean Johnson: Absolutely. Well John, this is this is a great conversation. I’m going to blow up your spot a little bit here and say if you’re listening to this and you got a bunch of people that you’re trying to get on the same page and say you know, build a culture of innovation within a team or within an organization find John on LinkedIn, you might get a flood of messages John, I didn’t tell you I was going to do that.
John Casey: that’s okay. I’m really good at answering questions with questions.
Sean Johnson: Bring the questions. There you go. Alright, John. Thanks for sitting down and we’ll do this again soon.
John Casey: You bet everybody, every day you win or learn, talk to you soon.
*Transcription was edited for clarity
Shownotes: How to Build a Culture of Innovation
3:23- What is a culture of innovation?
8:43- Why it is important to instill a culture of innovation in the workplace
10:46- We are all apart of many different cultures
13:14- Why it is harmful to believe that you aren’t good with innovation or change
14:23- What are the harmful beliefs about innovation and change that people should look out for?
18:54- What are the barriers?
23:42- How to go about “rebranding” yourself
26:47- Create a “no complaints without suggestions” approach
37:16- Let others speak first
38:59- How to become more resilient individually and at work
45:02- Goals are important!
50:49- How to instill courage in others
52:06- Get rid of negative thoughts in order to succeed
53:58- How we communicate with ourselves & why it is important