Wonder is underappreciated, So much of our creative and innovative potential flows from the simple act of wondering ‘what if’.
When I put together the Value Maturity Model of Collaboration, I had worked with people in organisations as they move from using collaboration platforms for communication then to solve their problems and on to creating new problems by asking curly ‘what if’ questions. Employees would ask “what if we did this another way?” or “how could we better meet customer needs?” or even “what if we didn’t do this at all?” The resulting conversations and work built on that wonder and drew others into the complex work to scale and sustain change. The last stage of the model, Innovate, is driven by that curiosity, creativity but above all the power to wonder about what might be.
As children, we have direct drive imaginations that can apply a sense of wonder to anything in our environment and beyond. As adults we don’t loose that capability, we just layer on top of it other pressures – power, social, work and time that make it less commonly applied. The questions are still raised and still there we just don’t as often take the time to share them with others or work on bringing these wondrous ideas to life in community.
Rekindling wonder in the organisation for the benefit of innovation involves engaging with those pressures and giving employees back the time and the freedom to dream a little more, to work a little differently and to come together in the pursuit of a purpose. The Value Maturity Collaboration Model reflects this because it recognises that for employees to feel ready to wonder they need to:
- Be aligned on shared purpose and feel safe to share their ideas
- Have the context to understand the organisational capabilities, work, priorities and issues
- Have the agency and freedom to make choices about their work and their contribution to the organisation
- Have time and resources to wonder, to collaborate and to create
In our lives, wonder can be prompted by an unusual sky, a dark wood or the site of another person going about their lives. We want that same curiosity in our organisations because that attention, effort and creativity is the heart of great customer service, creative problem solving and the ability of our organisations to adapt sustainably to change. Just as importantly, that wonder is how employees discover their potential and improve their performance by reaching for something not yet achieved or not yet done. In the transactional performance oriented hurly burly of our organisations, we need to invest time and effort to help our colleagues to wonder. We can’t loose the human magic of curiosity and a creative imagination. The rewards are as manifold as the paths that our curiosity and imagination may take.
Ask a ‘what if’ question today and take your colleagues on a journey of adventure, dreams and discovery.