Seven Strategies for Disabling Dogmas or Biases
By taking time to identify dogmas (or biases) and dominant logic, companies can bust the behaviors that limit their views of opportunities. By understanding and confronting dogmas, a business can stimulate dialogue and analysis that is free from bias and constraints, and is more likely to generate truly innovative approaches to capturing new value. This is the second in a series of articles identifying dogmas and how to conquer them. Find the first article here: Leave Dogmas Behind to Meet Unmet Market Needs.
Dogmas (or biases) come in all breeds and vary widely in ferocity, stealth and impact. Do not hate them because they are dogmas. Instead, seek to find, understand and disable them when they limit the objectivity and view of strategic opportunity. Here are some tips to disable dogmas:
- Get an outside-in perspective. Encourage external views into a company from outsiders: including customers, end users, organizational newcomers and others. This “outside-looking-in” perspective prepares an organization to take a hard look at its dogmas and adjust its innovation strategy process accordingly.
- Embrace diversity at every level. Diverse opinions and perspectives from different genders, professional backgrounds, positions in the value chain and cultures are imperative to accessing holistic and informed views of challenges. A wider sampling equals more creative solutions!
- Consider the values on which reward and recognition systems are designed. Do performance management systems incent compliance or innovation? This can pose a difficult decision to leadership because there may be equal responsibility to maintain standards, act within conventions that have succeeded in the past or covertly demand compliance; in other words, there is pressure to solidify biases. The right formal and informal recognition mechanisms – those that encourage new views and welcome intelligent risk-taking – can go a long way in preventing dogmas from becoming vicious.
- Challenge job design assumptions. Innovation is frequently limited because jobs are poorly structured and limit diversity of task and peer interaction. For example, businesses that rely too heavily on technology may have employees who believe that more technology is the only answer to growing share or improving internal processes. Strive to design jobs that enable diversity – in tasks, in interactions and through collaborative decision-making.
- Consider organization diagnostics. Several key and measurable organization dimensions influence the likelihood of success on topics such as innovation and strategy deployment. Diagnostics can help determine which are operating. Innovation readiness in any organization is primarily affected by three factors: 1) individual readiness to innovation, 2) environmental readiness to innovation and 3) the interaction among individuals and the environment in which they act and interact. Additionally, an employee’s self-perception of his company’s performance can illuminate and characterize areas of opportunity for improvement.
- Analyze the dogmas. Be objective when assessing the level-of-truth of the perception or assumption that a dogma represents. Disclose the myth of false assumptions to allow others to contribute in a less encumbered manner. Distinguish between biases isolated to individuals or small groups from the dominant logic that may be more pervasive across an entire industry. Focus on the big ones – pay little attention to dogmas with more bark than bite and address those that present a real obstruction to the opportunity horizon. It is the true and impactful dogmas and dominant logic that deserve an innovative perspective.
- Leadership style lies at the heart of leashing dogmas. A key component to bias-busting includes building a diverse environment where out-of-the-box thinking is encouraged. This begins with recruiting people who will not necessarily adhere to dominant paradigms such as “the most valuable hires are those that come from the competition.” Diversity is ideal in theory but difficult for a leader to practice in reality. Why? It means selecting and promoting people with whom supervisors might have tensions and hiring associates who do not easily fit in with pre-determined roles, behaviors and thinking. It means introspection and suspending judgment when dogmas are questioned. This is clearly an unconventional leadership style in the current business environment. Crucial personality traits of “dogma-busters” are lack of concern for social approval, independence of thought, risk taking, resilience and tolerance for ambiguity.
Victor Cascella is a director with Grant Thornton’s Global Public Sector and is responsible for developing excellence in mission performance for the firm’s Federal Government clients. As an expert in strategy and operations consulting, he works with executive-level leadership teams to translate business strategies into operational goals and helps them develop measurement systems to improve strategic clarity and accountability for performance. Cascella has worked in a wide range of industries, including government, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, services and financial. He is based in Washington, D.C. Contact Victor Cascella at victor.cascella (at) valeocon.com or visit http://www.valeocon.com.
Edoardo Monopoli is the managing partner with Valeocon Management Consulting and leads the Innovation practice. His clients include Pfizer, Whirlpool, Johnson & Johnson, American Standard and Novartis. He is based in Milan, Italy. Contact Edoardo Monopoli at edoardo.monopoli (at) valeocon.com or visit http://www.valeocon.com.