One of my mentors asked me what is the most significant factor preventing me from spending more time forgetting the past (unlearning) and innovating today for the future.
"Innovation? I hadn't thought about it."
That was my instant response. As an Extrovert with a capital "E," I next blurted out something about hyperawareness of today's gaps in operations. I primarily work with teams engaged in ongoing operations. Most of my time is spent with design and construction project teams and working directly with clients and supply chain partners, improving business processes.
I know how emails, phone calls, and meetings can quickly overtake a decent person's schedule with even modest responsibilities. If you are engaged in helping teams meet short-term profit and revenue goals plus a handful of other key performance indicators, your calendar is likely controlled by others more than by you.
We kept talking, and I shared that closing performance gaps are one of my primary responsibilities. By intentional design, I dedicate time daily to learn new concepts, have conversations with people across many different roles in the design and construction industry, and connect people to others working to improve project delivery. A good mentor knows when to ask more questions.
"Who is responsible for innovation in the teams you work with?"
I didn't have a blurt out, quick answer. I paused, we dialogued a bit more. I'm aware of the unspoken idea that business today will be like business yesterday, will be like business tomorrow. I'm old enough to remember how email disrupted the construction industry in the 1990s, how fax machines had disrupted it decades prior, and how text messaging and, more recently, video calls are disrupting project management today. At the moment, we all lack the perspective to see or predict the disruption. Finally, I had my answer. I said, "As a leader, I'm responsible for innovation." I'm confident of this because of my journaling practice.
"As a leader, I'm responsible for innovation."
Daily writing, journaling has changed my trajectory forward. I know that change is the only guarantee. Intuitively, chopping wood, doing the work requires occasional sharpening of the saw, continuous improvement, no arguments there. It is more than a job for me. Skills improvement and reflection are commonly understood as positive and good to spend our time on. Looking back at how we spend our time on any given day illustrates how lacking it is in practice. There are more incentives to work on the immediate problems/tasks than to strive towards our strategy.
This year I had the good fortune to get mentoring by a leader who values reflection, Katie Anderson. At her positive encouragement during her Leading to Learn Masterclass, I began journaling daily. Today marks nearly a year of consecutive journaling. I mentally practiced reflecting daily for many years, but this was different. Each day, as Katie taught me, I would write briefly on just three areas:
- Intention and action(s)
- Reflection (check/adjust)
With more than 30 days of consecutive journaling entries in this manner, I confidently know that this practice is what made my answer about innovation crystal clear and earned me more than a smile from my mentor. Responsibility for providing direction towards the future is mine. I'm positively impressed by the continuing benefits of Katie's guidance, mainly greater clarity of what to do with my limited 24 hours each day. My accountability has measurably increased. I have also achieved dramatically more in the last 30 days and have had more fun creatively bringing forward new ways to build better and make new things I never did before.
Learn more about Katie's Leading to Learn Accelerator interactive workshop and other offerings here. https://katieanderson.podia.com/