How to Innovate in Companies Where Agreement is Paramount

The Consensus-Driven Decision Making Machine

The Defense Department is a great example of consensus-driven decision-making. It’s big, has many layers of decision-makers and alignment around an idea is key.  Dan Ostrower, CEO of AltitudeInc, a design-thinking consultancy, recently discussed the three major types of companies and how they make their decisions. He says the more innovators can understand and adapt to company values and their decision making process, the more innovation will be able to thrive.

For example, he says the consensus building group can be the toughest group for innovation to occur.  That’s because organizations like this make decisions as a group.  They’re propelled by who believes in the idea and that there’s alignment around it.  Just add the number of decision-makers and you can see why this is a tough group to infiltrate and coalesce around a new idea or product.

decision making archetypes
Courtesy: AltitudeInc

Communicating and socializing are key here says Ostrower.  One on one conversations and listening build rapport and finds advocates for innovation; ideally advocates who can then convince others. There are usually layers of approval in these organizations so finding the right stakeholders is key as well.

Probably the easiest type of organization for tackling innovation is the Vision-Driven one. Usually the vision is very clear and the messaging is well-articulated. The leaders are “iconic” says Ostrower.  Think Richard Branson of Virgin and Steve Jobs of Apple.  The key weakness of these types of organization is in “drinking their own Kool-Aid.”

If you look at the core of design-thinking, it is about building empathy for customers.  Usually, we think of this as customers who make us smarter about our latest value proposition. But, it applies to organizations as well. After all, they’re probably THE, or at least, the first customers that have to engage for many smart, good innovations to occur.

Previous: Data-Driven decision making and innovation.

Helen WhelanHelen Whelan is a serial entrepreneur and consultant. She has 15+ years experience creating strategic partnerships and designing new business ventures. Her passion is in assisting start-ups and established companies innovate successfully through design-thinking and good leadership. Follow her blog at SuccessMedia or on Twitter @SuccessTV.

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