Idea Facilitation (Episode 40)

Interview with Vivek Muralidharan, Head of Business Innovation for the Business Unit Passive Safety and Sensorics at Technical Center India, Continental.

It’s might sound logical to think that someone with the title “Head of Business Innovation” is set on helping the best ideas within the company become a reality. That is why it was so interesting to talk to Vivek Muralidharan Head of Business Innovation for the Business Unit Passive Safety and Sensorics at Technical Center India, Continental, to find out why there is a value of sometimes promoting the people who do not have the best ideas, in order to – in the long run – get the best innovation result.

Vivek Muralidharan is passionate about innovation. When I interviewed him, one of the very first things that came out of his mouth was: “This is what I want to do with my life.” And with “this” he meant “innovation management”. Talking to him you can tell that he really loves helping people reach their full creative potential. Vivek explained that he looked at his job as a facilitator. A facilitator of ideas. 

If you have read some of my other articles you know that I am a sucker for etymology and I will use some insights from the true meanings of words also for this article. Because “facilitate” means “to make easy”. To facilitate something is to make it easy to do something. In Vivek’s case: Make it easy for people to have and develop great ideas.

But Vivek explained that sometimes a person would come in with an idea and the idea would be “ok”, or “good” but not “amazing” and still Vivek and his team would invest time, money and resources into the idea. Why? Because they could see that the person with the idea had potential for better ideas in the future, but that he, or she, lacked the right connections, skills or mindset needed to make future ideas great. It could, for example, be a very young person straight out of university, or someone new to the company. By mentoring these future great innovators and connecting them with the right stake holders internally as well as externally they are investing in future innovation. Making it easier for these people to innovate later. Supporting the hen that will later lay the golden egg.

Vivek: “Some people just lack the right connections. My job is to know who these people should talk to to make it easier for them to make their ideas come true. Me talking to the right people makes it easy.”

Let’s call it Idea Facilitation.

Of course the business potential of each idea is taken into account, but sometimes it is more important to help support the person than the idea.

In other instances Idea Facilitation can mean to push people. Vivek again: “For the people who already have a strong network and the right connections Idea Facilitation can actually mean to push them to develop more amazing ideas. For them to not just surf through on old experience. You need to push them. You can not shrink away to greatness.”

I underlined the last sentence, because I find it that good.

Facilitate does not mean to make something “as easy as possible”. It means to “make something easy to do”. The emphasis is on “to do”. Not on “easy”.

The perfect Idea Facilitation is about making it just challenging enough to be fun, rewarding and fulfilling to be creative.

Think about a parent giving a jar of jam to a child and asking the child to open it. If the lid is too tight the child will be disappointed and give up. But if the lid is too easy to open then there is no challenge. A good parent will help the child if it turns out that the lid is too tight and open the jar, but then – right before the parent gives it back to the child – tighten the lid just enough so that when the child tries again the child is just strong enough to get it open. Challenged solved.

When you facilitating innovation are you helping the ones that need the most help right now? Or the one who have the idea with the most potential right now? Or the people who need the most help now to be able to come up with great ideas in the future? The answer to these questions will drastically change how you approach your Idea Facilitation.




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