It sucks being the only innovator surrounded by status quo minds. As I learned in my thirty plus years, it sounds good to be the solo disruptive innovator out there pushing the limits and seeing opportunities everyone else misses. But, in reality it’s lonely, and not much gets done. In fact all you are left with is frustration and ideas that never get realized to their full potential. In this episode I share for ways to build a team of Everyday Innovators around you so that you can get the traction and support you need to accomplish anything.
In these four of 1) knowing the difference between wrong and different, 2) allowing small wins, 3) focus on the why, not the idea and 4) speak their language, I’ll delve into stories, inspiration and tactics for you to do the same. As I share, my efforts to push that boulder uphill alone usually led to failure. And, doing it with a team usually led to success.
Tamara’s Everyday Innovator style is Risk Taker Experiential. What’s yours?
Sticky Inspiration: You can’t push your idea uphill and succeed alone
Lesson & Action: Know the difference between wrong and different, 2) allowing for small wins, 3) focus on the why, not the idea and 4) speak their language
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Raw Podcast Transcript:
What’s up everyday innovators. So today I wanna talk about something, maybe a little personal, but I think relevant to a lot of us who are out there pushing the limit, trying to get things done, trying to go a little further, a little faster, trying to kind of push the boundaries out. And that is feeling like you’re on an island.
you know, early on in my career I think I took a lot of pride in being the disruptive innovator. And I say that laughing a little bit now, by the way. Cause it sounds so silly cuz you just don’t do it alone. But back then I, I took a lot of pride in being the one who thought differently than everybody else.
And, you know, being the one who was out on the ledge and making it happen and other people just didn’t. , I, maybe that’s part of being in your twenties too. I don’t know. I think, you know, you, there’s a little bit of bragging rights and like, oh, I’m, I could do this so much better than everybody. And those people don’t get it.
And they’re all jaded and they’re all too experienced and, you know, stuck in status quo. And that might have been true for some of ’em. But the reality is when I look back is that I actually didn’t get much done. I was pushing water uphill by myself. and you know, that whole narrative about the innovator being that lone inventor in the garage, you know, up until three o’clock in the morning doing crazy things is untrue.
And in fact, if you look at the great innovators of our time, and by the way, we all, we’re all everyday innovators, all of us, our innovators make a massive impact in our world. And there are. that are also on the genius level that we know about because they’ve done things like Steve Jobs and invented the iPhone.
But even if you look at someone like Steve Jobs, some of the people that we revere, they didn’t do it alone. Steve Jobs had wosniak, he had a whole team of people. Nobody does it alone. And I don’t remember when that switch flipped, but I can tell you that at some point, , I realized that, you know, standing up on my righteous pedestal of being an innovator by myself wasn’t getting me or my ideas anywhere.
In fact, all I was really getting was resistance. Do you feel that way sometimes when you’re out there on the ledge by yourself and you’re trying to push an idea forward, make things happen, and all you’re getting are nos and resistance and yes. But. and things getting stuck in the bureaucracy of things.
Well, I think what my career has taught me is that part of, that’s the system, part of that’s some legacy thinkers, but you know what? A lot of that was me taking pride in perpetuating the problem because I wanted to be up on this pedestal as this disruptive innovator that was, you know, different than everybody.
And when that switch flipped, I realized that I need other people to move things forward. I can’t do it alone. I need other people to up their innovation game with me. I needed to be less of that, you know, solo innovator on an island and more of that rising tide that lifts all. and there’s a little bit of selflessness and a little bit of selfishness in that, you know, the selfish part of it is my ideas get moved forward.
I get traction, I get buy-in for my ideas. I get recognized for being an innovator. And that’s is a little selfish. Yeah, maybe. But for a good reason. And the selfless side of it is I get to help other people be innovators too. To get them to. change their game and to get more satisfaction in their work and be more innovative and solve their biggest problems.
So I think it takes a little bit of both sides of that coin, selfless and selfishness. And I would encourage you to think about when you are tackling a problem, whether this is personal or professional, if you’re going in there kind of guns blazing, like you’re the solo innovator and everybody else’s lame, or if you’re going in there really working, To elevate everybody’s game and getting everybody on board the journey with you.
It is no fun pushing a boulder uphill by yourself. I think that’s the analogy I’m gonna stick with. As you can tell, I tend to muddle my analogies quite a bit and go back and forth, but if I really visualized what it felt like, I’ve got this boulder, and this boulder needs to be at the top of the hill. In fact, it’s the right place for it is up at the top of the.
but I’m the only one pushing it and it’s too big and it’s too hard. And maybe I move the needle a little bit, but then I get pushed back. I move it a little more up the hill, then I get pushed back and I kind of get stuck in place. Do you ever feel like that? Have you ever had an experience where you know, you’ve got your idea, this big boulder, that’s awesome, it’s gonna take some work, some effort, and you’re pushing it uphill to where it should be.
you’re kind of either spinning your wheels or you’re not getting anywhere. Or maybe it’s even going backwards. It’s not. It’s not only is it not going forward, but you’re getting further from your goals could be cuz you’re pushing alone. I would really encourage you to start thinking about how can I be that rising tide that lifts all boats, the people around me?
And you know what? It feels good. It feels really good to go into a meeting, into a conversation, into a relationship. into a presentation with that perspective in mind, and it’s ama. It’s been amazing to me as I’ve gone through my almost 30 year career now, the difference that I’ve seen in people’s responses to me and to I, my ideas when I shifted from I am the disruptive innovator.
Look at. to, Hey, we’re all innovators. So let me figure out how to bring you on board for the journey. Let me figure out how to tap into you. So why don’t we talk about, why don’t we talk about doing that? I’ve got four ways that you can elevate the innovation and the vision and the energy of the people around you that are are proven.
I know they work cause I’ve used them in my career. Throughout in many, many different ways. I’ve used them in my personal life throughout, in many different ways. And let me share these four with you and some stories behind them. Cause I think they’re really gonna help you get more of what you are looking for out of work and life too.
Get more traction for your ideas, get more yeses from the people on the other side of the table, from you. Okay? So let me tell you what the four are and then I will back up and explain them. So the first one is different. Isn’t. . The second one is allow for small wins. The third one is focus on the why not the idea.
And then the fourth and final one is speak their language. So let me dig into all these because I know from the people in our everyday innovator community that these have made a massive impact on their world too. Okay. The first one different isn’t, There’s this great TED Talk out there by a man named Derek Sivers, and if you haven’t seen it, I’d encourage you to go find it.
I think it’s, I think the title is, is It Wrong or Different? And I think it’s a Three Minute Ted Talk and he talks about how in the US if you ask for directions, people tell you the street, oh, it’s on 23rd and Maple. But if you go to Japan, they say Block one house five. Right. Talking about is the things that people present to you, are they wrong?
Are they just different? When I was leading this consulting firm in Denver, one of the mistakes I realized I was making is if it wasn’t. an idea that fit into my mold of what an idea should look like. It was wrong and we shouldn’t do it. I wasn’t able to recognize other people’s innovative ideas cuz they didn’t fit my vision of how that solution should look.
And consequently, because of that, I was shutting down the innovation in the room and then, What happened? I turned myself into that lone disruptive innovator narrative that I love so much, and I’m up on that pedestal by myself, and I’m pushing that rock uphill by myself and nothing was working. And I, I remember walking to the office one day and just having this epiphany of, you know what, maybe their ideas aren’t wrong.
Maybe they’re just d. and maybe if I allow them to pursue those different ideas, not only will they work, they might even work better than what I had in mind. And sure enough, that was true. One of the mistakes that we make as humans, and it it’s natural, is that if it doesn’t fit our mold of what assumption something should look like, we see it as wrong.
We’ve gotta open our eyes and recognize that it’s not wrong, it’s just d. This happens at home to me all the time, by the way. Like I’ll say to my kids, Hey, we need to clean the house. And my vision of how we need to get that done looks a very specific way if you know, you know, that’s very specific. And my kids on the other hand, have their way of doing it.
And for the longest time I fought it, I wanted ’em to do it my way. and one day I just said, Hey, I’m leaving. I’m coming. I’ll be back in an hour. Clean the house. And they did it and it looked fantastic. And the way they did it is in no way the way I would would’ve done it. But it wasn’t wrong. It was just different.
And we both got, all of us got to the outcome that we were looking for. So be careful. You might be shutting down people. innovative ideas. You might be shutting down their drive to be innovative with you because you’re seeing what they’re saying as wrong, when really it’s just different. That’s all. It is just different, and I think there’s a lot of benefit of that if we open our eyes because we start to see things from different perspectives, different approaches, different angles, and there’s some benefit to help us grow our innovative minds in that as well.
So, . Remember, it’s not wrong. It’s probably just different. Go check out that Ted Talk from Derek Sivers. It really nails it the way he talks about it. I find though, that when I start to allow for those differences and start to see them a as if not more valid than kind of how I would’ve approached it, people become more innovative with me, right?
They help me move that boulder up that hill. The second one is allow for small wins. So often time we see innovation as this big blue sky disruptive, crazy thing that we’re going after. And so people come to us, right, with these big, crazy, innovative, disruptive ideas, and we’re supposed to yes or no them, and oftentimes there’s a no that is attached to that.
How many times have you had that? Well, Your team or the people in your life work in the same way. If every time they go to you with an innovative idea, you shut it down, you stop it, then they’re gonna stop and they’re gonna resist more of your ideas. So what I’ve found is the best way to overcome that and to give people the confidence that they need to continue to innovate alongside with you, is to give them small wins.
I will absolutely say yes to my kids, to my partner, to my team, to my clients on something that they really wanna go after. When I know that it’s low or no risk, when I know that going after it means more to them than it does to. , I will give ’em all the time. The small win. And you know what? You never know where it’s gonna end up.
Sometimes those small wins turn into really big opportunities, but to start, just give the people around you some small wins. It has helps so much with people’s confidence, their sense of independence, their desire to wanna help and support you. They deserve that. We all deserve small wins. So if one of my team come to me and says, Hey, Tamara, I wanna try so, and here’s a tiny little thing I can do to to experiment with it.
You better believe I’m gonna say yes, even if I don’t see the value in the idea yet. I’m going to give them the small win and see where it goes. But I know for a fact that not only could that idea be something, but more importantly for me in that moment, it’s gonna help build confidence and trust and relationship, all the things that we both need to move those boulders up.
Allow for small wins. It doesn’t hurt you. I’ve never understood why, you know, people are so quick to shut stuff down that’s insignificant or that, I don’t wanna say insignificant, that’s not the right word, because it all matters, but doesn’t have a massive impact on outcomes in the moment. Or, you know, doesn’t harm or hurt them in any way.
Why not give them the small win and just say, . You know, one of the things, I think my doctor just did this to me recently, by the way, because, and I love it. I love him for it. He’s one of the, he’s the best doctor. So I had gone to him and said, Hey, I’m having some trouble losing those last pounds. I’m struggling.
And I’m wondering if, you know, with my, I’ve been doing a lot of reading on glucose and kind of blood sugar and what it does to your weight, and I’m, you know, I’m headed into doing a lot of training for some upcoming events. I’d love to really optimize my performance. I’d like to get a continuous glucose monitor.
You know, one of those ones you put in your arm and then it’s connected to an app and it monitors your blood sugar. And he emailed me back and he said, well, you’re definitely not diabetic or even pre-diabetic. He said, you know, your numbers don’t show that in your blood work. He said, um, and here’s a different monitor you could use that doesn’t require a continuous, like you, I think you prick your finger or whatever.
And I responded back with, yeah, but like, I don’t wanna prick my finger or whatever. And so he responded. . If this gives you the information that you’re looking for, or that’s gonna help you customize your nutrition the way you want, then let’s go for it. I’ve written you a prescription. It’s waiting for you at the drugstore.
Okay, let’s break this down for a minute. The doctor didn’t need to say Yes. This continuous glucose monitoring is for people with diabetes, of course, right? Who really need to monitor their blood sugar. . I wanted it for lifestyle purposes. I wanted it for data really. I really wanted to see, you know, what, how certain foods affect me and what I can do to optimize my physical performance.
And he gave me the small win. He didn’t have to say, yes, of course not. Now, remember what I was saying before? If it doesn’t do any harm, why not? If it helps the person kind of feel, trust, and rapport and connected, and get them what they need to move forward, why? . Well, that’s exactly what he did. Doesn’t harm knowing that data.
It doesn’t harm at all. I just want it for a couple months. Right? And made me feel like, yes, this is a thing I wanted and I got it. Small wins. That’s all it takes. Okay. Number three is focus on the why not the idea. I think ideas are like icebergs and all we see is the tip of ’em and. Yay or nay, the tip of ’em.
And we focus on what we think is gonna work or not work. You know, based on that little bit of it we see. But the thing that we miss is underneath that water, as you know, with an iceberg, is a lot more. A lot more. And to me that’s the why. And if we want people around us to minimize resistance, be innovators with us instead of focusing on the idea focus.
on the why. Why do they love this idea? Why are they passionate about it? What are they really trying to solve? Why does this matter to them? Why are they going to bat for this idea? Often I found that that’s where the gold is. It’s underneath. It’s not on that tip or thing that we can see the idea. It’s the why behind it.
And. . It’s also been my experience that when we understand the why, we get to stronger, more collaborative ideas together, because we’re digging into, well, what is this really trying to solve? What are we trying to accomplish? Why does this matter? Who does this really impact? Right to all those things, but really seeking to understand the why behind what people are saying behind their ideas.
Also behind their resistance too. I’ll do a whole nother podcast on minimizing resistance. One of the most powerful things that you can do to minimize someone’s resistance around you is to understand why they’re resisting. So don’t fight the resistance, understand the why. So focus on the why not the idea, and they’re more likely to focus on your why back as well.
But somebody’s gotta start that conversation. All right. Lastly, speak their language. So simple. . Here’s the reality. We speak the language that we know, and that we understand the language that motivates us. That gets us energized and excited, and then we bring that language to other people and it doesn’t motivate and excite them.
How many times have you said, Hey, oh my God, I’m so excited. There’s this new restaurant, we should go try it. Like, I’ve never had food like this before, and the, you know, your wife or husband or boyfriend, girlfriend, whatever, is that. The other side of the kitchen counter is like, eh, I don’t know. Because that’s what excites us, not them.
How many times have you been in a meeting where you’ve put together a beautiful PowerPoint presentation, you’ve presented your thinking and you’re like, yeah, this is gonna pave new ways and build new opportunities. And even though you know it’s the right thing to do, you get the most lackluster res response from the people on the other side.
Yeah, it’s cuz you’re speaking your language, not theirs, by the way, , did you, I just realized this. Did you notice in both of those, example, I gave you examples that would speak to me. I’m a risk taker, experiential, so I want bold and different and new. I wanna push boundaries, right? I wanna carve new paths all the time.
That totally speaks to me. Those two examples were exactly it, which by the way, I have a collaborative tweaker on my team, and if I go to her with those, it’s like, want, want? . But if I say to her, Hey, this is gonna help you build connections, you’re gonna really have to kind of embrace a lot of different perspectives to get this idea done.
Um, you’re gonna, I would suggest taking what we’ve already done and springboarding off of that, optimizing it. She’s all in. That’s her language. So if you know the People’s Everyday Innovator styles around you, this becomes very easy. In fact, one of our most downloaded documents in the online Everyday Innovators online toolbox is our personality, one page cheat sheet, because it has what motivates everybody, what drives everybody, the type of language they use.
So you can recognize them, but you know, awareness. half half of it. So if you’re just simply aware and listening to the type of language the people across from you use, what tends to light them up and what doesn’t, you’ll start to adjust your language to match what’s gonna make them the most receptive.
To me, this is one of the most important things we can do as a leader, as a partner, as a friend, is just listen to how people talk so that we can actually speak their language. and connect with ’em in a way that works for them and for us. All right, so let me back up for a second. Let me summarize these four.
And again, just a reminder to us all. The point here is let’s not push that boulder uphill alone. It’s exhausting and it often never works. Often never works. Wow, that didn’t sound right. It often doesn’t work. , that was a little bit of an anchorman moment. What was that? 60% of the time it works every time.
I think I just did that. All right, let, let me back up. I’m making myself laugh over here. Pushing that boulder uphill alone is ineffective. It’s exhausting. , it usually leads to failure. And even if you get that boulder uphill by yourself, yay you, that’s no fun. The reality is we need other people to be pushing with us.
We need help. We need other people that can build tools that’ll pull that boulder uphill faster. We need people to help sh bear the burden. We need people to help do the things that we don’t know how to do. And the four ways to do that very simply are open up your eyes. And be aware of and recognize that things aren’t wrong, they’re different.
Be open to those differences. The second one is allow small wins. Give people the confidence and the connection they need to move forward with you. And the third one is focus on the why not the idea. Here’s the other thing with the why that I didn’t mention before. It’s been my experience that people don’t need to be right, but they need to feel valued and they need to feel heard and digging into their why does both of those things.
And like I said, underneath that water in that iceberg, there is so much goodness there to pull from. And then the fourth one is speak their language. Know their everyday innovator style and speak to that. Acknowledge, recognize, listen to the words that they use, listen to. They tend to say yes to what?
They tend to say no to. Look at their body language, pay attention, and then make sure that you’re speaking their language, not yours. All right. I gotta say I, uh, I feel very strongly is not coming across that we can’t do it alone. And like said, my almost 30 years now, that is my 30 years have proven that.
when I made that change of kind of, you know, doing it by myself to trying to kind of be that rising tide or get other people on board, man, I’ve gotta fix my analogies, . But when I flip that switch, not only did more things get done more effectively, and the outcomes were stronger and better, but also it’s more satisfying.
It’s more rewarding to lift up other people in the process and to do it together.