Mindful listening as a force for innovation

“Without mindful listening it is simply not possible to extract what is important from what is said and to make the kind of connections that are needed for innovation.” Cristina Bianchi / Maureen Steele writing in Coaching for Innovation What is mindful listening? The ability to be a keen observer of even the smallest details is an important skill that innovators have in common. Thanks to this skill, innovators are able to pick up on more and make better connections. It is this ability to think associatively that leads to insights about new ways of doing things. Developing your powers of observation and the ability to listen at a very high level – listening mindfully – will enable you to make better connections based on what you are hearing, seeing and sensing. Hearing is a physiological process. It is largely passive and happens automatically although thankfully, you can sometimes choose to filter out those things you don’t want to hear and ignore them. Listening comes about as a result of a choice to pay attention, and is largely active. Listening actively means you place yourself at the service of the speaker and provide feedback on what you hear by restating, paraphrasing, and summarising. Listening mindfully implies that you activate your observational skills to the maximum and all of your senses, not just hearing, are receptive to what is going on around you. When you listen mindfully: You are fully present in the dialogue with all this entails, mind, body and soul and yet you retain the objective ability to observe the discussion from different angles. You clear your mind...

Powerful questions for bigger thinking

Questions act as the critical trigger to bigger thinking. For example, in the workplace, if you try to do something differently, you may be met with the response, ‘That’s not how we do things here.’ The big thinker would wonder why not and would not hesitate to ask ‘What stops you?’ This is a powerful question. Cristina Bianchi / Maureen Steele writing in Coaching for Innovation Questions lie at the heart of coaching and when you want to coach for innovation, you need to be asking powerful questions to stimulate connections that have not been made before. It is then much more likely that the outcome is change and a different way of doing things, whether this change is gradual and progressive or radical and revolutionary. Finding the right words at the right time to ask the perfect question that focuses the attention of the listener where it most needs to be is a tough call. This is often because neither the person who is asking the question, nor the person who is being asked, realises consciously that the question prompts the listener in a certain direction and will generally predetermine the answer. In other words, you do really get what you ask for. Characteristics of powerful questions Powerful questions are well formulated – the choice of words is critical. Incorporate into your question the key words used by the other person to demonstrate that you have listened well and that you value what has just been said. Use short and simple sentences that provide clarity about what you are asking. Have one clear ask rather than asking multiple...

Make it your mission to drive innovation

“You do not need to be either a born innovator or a professional coach to use coaching to drive innovation. You do need the right attitude, behaviours, skill set and a ready supply of tested and practical coaching models.” Cristina Bianchi / Maureen Steele writing in Coaching for Innovation Innovation is not something you need to shy away from or be intimidated by. Innovation is about coming up with things (or ways of doing things) that are new and useful and which add value for the customer, whoever this customer may be. First step: have the right attitude Driving the innovation process and making innovation happen means playing your part in creating a culture in which idea generation can flourish, deciding what to do with the ideas that are produced and then following through with the implementation. Without this approach and attitude you will find it very difficult to be effective: Be convinced about the benefits that innovation brings. Have the purpose of adding value in some new way. Drive yourself to look for new ways of doing things. Cultivate your curiosity and your willingness to learn. Second step: ten ways to behave like an innovator There are some common behaviours shared by most successful innovators.  None of these behaviours, either individually or taken together, act as a guarantee for innovation but without them it is extremely unlikely that you will even get started: Observe and be curious about everything. Ask questions of yourself and others. Listen with great attention. Look for opportunities at every twist and turn of the road. Connect with other people and be interested in...