Easy to say, hard to do.
This past week had "the awkward moment" as a sub-theme to otherwise valiant, bold, worthy innovation efforts in three locales, Orlando, Atlanta, and Chicago, among three altogether unrelated projects. The awkward moment itself became a discovery.
It's the moment we--relative strangers, of varying disciplines, points of view, areas of expertise, verbal skills, personality types, frames of reference, emotional investment in outcomes, etc.--set about working together to solve a challenge.
The [insert your] challenge--whichever one you want to name, or rather, whichever one your "boss(es)" consider to be the most crying-need issue right now--requires five, or seven, or 12, or 25 people to burrow into any number of our organization's or our housing world's word-cloud of pain-points, risks, or opportunities, and, collectively, design a roadmap, an "if-then" solution, a story.
As sage Simon Sinek guides, at first we may gravitate intuitively to "whats." These represent functional features, attributes, capabilities, etc. that encircle the core of our effort. Those "whats," however, orbit at a distance from the center. They may entice. They can certainly suck up a lot of our time and mindshare because of their allure, or their level of difficulty, or their ability to be simply explained.
"Hows" occupy the next concentric band, closer to the center-point than the "whats." If features, functions, attributes reflect capability, this next level maps that capability to workflow, to management, to allocation of resources, to application in real-life, telling of both ingenuity and commitment, appreciation to detail, and focus on the big picture.
But, for all their brilliance, their clarifying power around a plan and execution, the "hows," too, are an outer ring, just like the "whats."
The core is the "why." For any initiative, strategic or tactical, large or small, momentary or stretched across time, there may be many "whats" and several "hows," but, more often than not, there's just one why, one purpose. Knowing why helps makes complete sense of both hows and whats that spring from that purpose.
Now, about the awkward moment. You're sitting around a table. It's time to brainstorm a subject. You're given the guidelines, the ground rules, the goals, the scope, and the work tools, and the time allotment. The facilitator says "go."
That awkward moment comes when each individual person sitting in that room or around that table has an internal decision to make about whether to plunge in and invest in that moment, that exercise.
It's easy to say that innovation and collaboration are necessary to our organizations' ability to thrive. Here it is in black and white, in the Harvard Business Review today.
Companies must become more innovative to better respond to the highly competitive, global business environment. Collaboration is indispensable for innovation, both within the company’s own boundaries and beyond, with customers, partners, startups, universities, and research communities.
It's easy enough to say that. But doing it may start with awkward moments. It may start with everyone around the table thinking of "whats" and "hows," and trying in that imperfect, chaotic, beautiful way to get to "why."
Do you want to design, develop, and build great homes? (Those may be "whats," addressing the functions, features, and capabilities of your organizations.)
Do you want to get people to buy your homes at a profitable price? (Those may be the "hows" of road-mapping your use of resources, processes, people, and work streams to generate economic value by integrating individual pieces and parts that start with less value).
Or, do you want people to live safe, comfortable, healthy, secure, connected, excited, serene, and purposeful lives in one of your homes and communities? (Aha, the why!).
Here's to awkward moments!