Don't Let Hierarchy Stifle Innovation


September 11, 2022



About This Episode

Today Tim and Junior sit down to discuss Tim’s recent Harvard Business Review article titled “Don’t Let Hierarchy Stifle Innovation.” There are a lot of concepts that Tim wasn’t able to include in his article that are discussed today, including how to improve our interactions, how to unleash bottom-up innovation and the role that hierarchy plays in innovation and execution. 

You can read the HBR article here:

About the article (1:30). Junior introduces the first line of the article as the theme of this podcast. Tim shares what motivated him to write the article in the first place. 

Innovation, hierarchy, and division one football (7:30). Tim shares an analogy from his college football days that explains how extra layers in a hierarchy makes things complicated.

Whose job is it anyway? (11:15) Tim claims that it’s the senior leadership’s responsibility. They have to enlist the rest of the organization, but innovation is embedded in every role. Do we teach our managers how to manage innovation? 

Interactions have an element of quality (15:25). Being at the top of this spectrum of quality means that fear, anxiety, inhibition don’t get in the way. Is it free-flowing? Energetic Candid? 

Sustainable competitive advantage (21:15). Tim and Junior discuss what innovation does for an organization and why it pays dividends in the long run. 

A culture of rewarded vulnerability (30:30). If participation rights aren’t enforced from day one and in the day-to-day, innovation and change won’t happen. You can’t fake the quality of interaction for more than a couple of hours. 

Innovation is unknown (37:00). This will usually cause some angst, a little bit of “I don’t know” and that discomfort is part of how you’ll know that you’re in exploratory inquiry. 

Normalizing constructive dissent (42:15). Tim and Junior break this down: what is dissent? And what do they mean by constructive?

How empathy regulates discovery (50:40). Empathy means “I will try to understand with compassion and curiosity how you arrived at your conclusions from these data.” Tim explains why empathy is crucial to the innovation process.

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