Are You Prioritizing Innovation Over Skill?

Skills are the groundwork for excellence. And the mastery of any skill requires time and commitment. While innovation is necessary for progress, skills are the backbone enabling advancement.

I recently had minor surgery to get a pacemaker. The experience, skills, and attention of the supporting nurses and staff were amazing. They know their jobs and execute the needs of the surgeons superbly. In a similar instance, it appears that Damar Hamlin, the football player, was saved by the skills of the emergency team that cared for him. They integrated knowledge, experience, and teamwork to revive and save him almost immediately.

We frequently underestimate the role of knowledge, experience, and skills in solving many issues. Take the Southwest Airlines holiday disaster as an example. The lack of knowledge, planning, and care led to a system-wide meltdown and the disruption of millions of travelers’ plans, from which they are still trying to recover.

In general, we neglect the importance of balancing planning, skills, and experience with innovation and intuition. The more history, expertise, and data, the more analytical and proven methods are preferred. The more uncertainty, change, and volatility, the more intuition and innovation are required. However, our organizations seem to be moving towards more uncertainty and volatility and, therefore, require more thought in our decision-making.

Utilizing skills to forecast and plan:

While we all value analysis and A.I. to improve results, we sometimes ignore the accuracy and validity of that analysis. The pandemic has made much of the data from 2019-2021 less reliable in forecasting. Economic, political, and environmental changes can impact the assumptions and process of our analysis. For example, higher winds and higher water temperatures from climate changes have worsened the impact of weather. Structural changes like the war in Ukraine, crime, and inflation can also affect our assumptions and analysis.

Timing and situation should also greatly affect analysis versus intuition. While many understand product life cycles, we forget how age, competition, and technology can affect our progress. For example, over 60% of advertising is over the Internet rather than traditional media. Age is another factor we frequently ignore. Many politicians and managers continue to serve despite waning capabilities and energy.

With uncertainty high in many areas, requiring more intuition and innovation in our planning, we can trust that skill and experience will successfully inform intuition.  

Capitalizing on innovation:

There are many opportunities to capitalize on the need for intuition and innovation. The pandemic stimulated new opportunities like work from home and virtual learning that need to be allowed to reach their potential. For example, small Universities are sharing courses with other local Universities to expand the offerings to students. These need more analysis and objective thought rather than simple opinions to have success.

When dealing with innovation and change, psychological issues need to be managed rather than feared. Hatred and threats are the tools of the extremists. They need to be managed, understood and not allowed to disrupt our efforts. In particular, we need to build positive relationships and improve communication.

The most frequent issue inhibiting progress is bias. Our enthusiasm or mindset frequently cause us to overestimate markets, ignore competition, and not consider the issues in execution. Again, the more we can rely on skill, the more we can eliminate bias.

So, how can you balance innovation with skill to improve the way you run your business?

Replace Hierarchy.

Most organizations are based on hierarchy, but this system is obsolete and, more often than not, fails. It is a structure that rewards people at the top who may not be competent rather than seeking expertise. We should constantly be striving to improve and that is impossible to do if we rely on an inflexible system. The world is constantly changing and we need to adapt accordingly.

Related: New Strategies To Improve Innovation