How do you motivate your team to think about the future when they're busy in the present?


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CIO in Education, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
You have to find the ones that are already thinking about the future, because there probably are some team members that are. Identify those folks and tell them, "You're in this box, but maybe you could help us out if you think more about X or Y or Z." Subsequent to that, for those at a leadership level, remind people to take the view from the balcony. That statement on its own is very powerful. I have to remind my directors that they are directors, so I expect them to be strategic and not dive down into the weeds all the time. The expectation for them is that strategy is as much a part of their job as are the tactical aspects. Some of them have problems with relinquishing control, which is human nature. We've had it ingrained in us that, to be accountable, you have to take full responsibility, and if you can't trust somebody else to do something, then you’ll do it to ensure it gets done. There's a mindset to it. When I recruit, I erase my whiteboard and say, "You see that? That's your playing field — tell me what you want this to look like."

Whether you do it as a formal organization, or you just throw it out there, you can say, "I'd like five or six people who are interested in looking at things that are innovative, whether it's cloud, blockchain, 5G or quantum computing." Pick a couple of buzzwords and say, "Go write me a small white paper and find me one vendor that might solve a business problem," just to see what you get. We used to call them stretch assignments. If you put it out there, you might get people to take it on, but I don't think you want to force it.
Managing Director in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
I've had experience with managing large numbers of professionals and you have to set expectations. People have to be accountable for their own career development, and looking to innovate is part of your career development. I used to tell folks, "If you don't care about your career, why should I?" You have to build in those programs and opportunities because people do perform the way they perceive they're being measured. If they feel there's benefit to them to stretch, learn and innovate, because it will be rewarded in income or other types of career rewards, they're more apt to do those things.

There are people that are always going to stay in their box, but that still should be an expectation that you set in your organization. Technology's dynamic, as is the business world and your customers; your end users have dynamic, changing needs, so as an organization you have to continuously innovate. It should be part of the organization’s continuous improvement process.
VP, Information Technology in Consumer Goods, 10,001+ employees
Encouraging innovative thinking is about culture and leading from the front. We work a lot to develop that mindset in our younger juniors when they come up, because it's very foreign to them. You give them a blank whiteboard and they're like, "Whoa, that’s not my place." So we throw it at them from a different angle. We will have someone in the room with them who often comes up with crazy ideas, stuff that won't fly, and then we have the juniors tear them apart. Doing that gives them a voice. Then we can say to them, "Now that you've broken down the idea and told me why it doesn't work, how would you fix it?" At that point they're vested, so it's about reframing the dialogue. Some of them sink and some of them swim, but you figure out which people like to play in that space. Those are the ones that you coach into innovating further. The other folks become SMEs — they're good at playing in their box, but they won't fly the helicopter to see the whole field.
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Chief Technology Officer in Software, 11 - 50 employees
We do this at company conferences and quarterly meetings. Had no luck at all getting their attention there when you are knee deep in sprints and programming.

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