A Culture of Trust for Sustainable Innovation: Interview with Judith E. Glaser

The Essential Conditions for Sustainable Innovation consist of Culture, Mindset, and Opportunity. Innovating can be exciting, exhilarating, Essential Conditions for Sustainable Innovationand fun but can also feel uncomfortable, forced or inauthentic for some. To lessen these disparities, organizations should spend time setting the stage. Building a strong foundation to ensure the Sustainable Innovation Framework can take hold depends on these Essential Conditions. This article focuses on Conversational Intelligence®, a framework for creating a trust culture. The other two Essential Conditions rely on a Culture of Trust, so this article focuses on the first essential condition.

The Foundation for Sustainable Innovation: A Culture of Trust

Judith E. Glaser, a world class Organizational Anthropologist, innovative change agent, and author, weighs in on why Conversational Intelligence® is one of the essential conditions for sustainable innovation. In 2013, I read Judith’s book, Conversational Intelligence® and it profoundly impacted me. I’m inherently introverted but my desire to bring innovative ideas and greater value to my district and my life prompted me to build an innovation. As with any idea, you tell a few people close to you as your initial litmus test, and it passed. My professional network put me in touch with Judith. We have been working together and innovating since early 2014. What differentiates Judith from other organizational anthropologists and executive coaches, is how she has taken what neuroscientists understand about the brain to improve organizational culture where innovations can flourish.

“To get to the next level of greatness depends on the quality of the culture, which depends on the quality of relationships, which depends on the quality of conversations. Everything happens through conversations.” – Judith E. Glaser

I asked Judith to answer the questions below because she understands how cultures impact innovation. Judith, through her work with Fortune 100 companies not only provides strategies but helps companies implement them. Here’s what she had to say:

Judith E. Glaser Shares Her Thoughts

Christine: Based on your research in neuroscience how can Conversational Intelligence® create a Culture of Trust for Sustainable Innovation?

Judith: Fear blocks ideas. When we are fearful that our ideas are unusual, different, crazy or if we have tried to add ideas into a conversation and we feel rejected – innovation stops happening.

Cortisol, a fear hormone closes down our brain – while Oxytocin, a bonding hormone, opens our brain…

Leaders who can set a tone for ‘sharing and discovering’ through Conversational Intelligence® – enable our brain to source innovation easily.

Christine:  How can teams work toward achieving a Culture of Trust?

Judith: Conversational Intelligence® is a methodology for enabling healthy conversations…a foundation for trust relationships which in turn creates a culture of trust.

Conversational Rituals enable leaders to establish the essential conditions for growth in organizations and growth depends on creating ‘Rules of Engagement’ in teams, in partnerships and in organizations. The Rules of Engagement enable teams to understand what each person can do to ‘open the space’ for innovation to emerge.

Examples of Rules of Engagement:…

We have 5 Conversational Essentials that we believe are powerful and are the core behaviors that set the stage for healthy conversations – and which can be game changers in bringing innovation to life.

  • Prime for Trust
  • Ask Questions for which you have no answers
  • Listen to connect not judge or reject
  • Sustain conversational Agility
  • Double-click

Christine: What is your favorite strategy for inspiring innovation?

Judith: Observe how innovation appears in teams, relationships and partnerships… then experiment… Innovation and experimentation go hand in hand…

A Deeper Look at The 5 Conversational Essentials

Priming for Trust keeps the brain in a “safe zone” where team members feel they can openly share ideas. To Prime for Trust, it is important to personally connect with team members. By asking your teammate about their family or something that means something to them, their brain moves out of the limbic brain and into the neocortex. Without Priming for Trust, the fight or flight instincts (limbic brain) change how information is interpreted. Think about your next meeting, do you jump straight into the work or do you spend time connecting? Spend time connecting and observe how the quality of the work changes and innovative ideas emerge.

Ask questions for which you have no answers. As a leader, if you have already decided your vantage point on a topic, why have a meeting at all? Ask open-ended questions that inspire conversation. What you will find is that the team will dig deeper as the conversation evolves. Design thinking, an innovative practice, depends on this premise.

Listen to Connect not judge or reject takes conscious effort. In time, this effort becomes a habit. Listen to connect becomes possible when you have primed for trust. During conversations, keep an open mind and continue asking questions versus putting up a wall and rejecting ideas. Build on someone’s idea or propose your own based on their idea for new innovations.

Sustain Conversational Agility by navigating at will, or toggling, between the three levels of Conversational Intelligence. There is a time and place for each of the levels but new innovations occur through Level 3, co-creating.

The 3 The Levels of Conversational  Intelligence® are:

  • Level 1 – Transactional;  Tell and Ask – Informing – confirming what we know
  • Level 2 – Positional; Advocate and Inquire – Persuading
  • Level 3 – Transformational; Share and Discover – Co-Creating – discover what we don’t know

Double Click means asking questions to gain an understanding of a teammates idea. Judith uses the analogy of a computer file structure. You double click to see what’s underneath. For example, “Help me understand what you mean by x?”  If you have Primed for Trust, Listened to Connect and have established Level 3 Conversations, double-clicking becomes natural. Innovations occur through questioning.

The Essential Conditions for Sustainable Innovation

Conversational Intelligence® builds a strong foundation in which Sustainable Innovation can exist and flourish. Building a strong culture takes work but is well worth the effort. This is the first in a series of articles highlighting The Essential Conditions for Sustainable Innovation. Stay tuned for more.

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