Innovation Nation
Innovation Nation

Episode · 2 months ago

How To Navigate Change With Innovation & Keeping Communications Human w/ Bruce Tulgan


Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, the world saw the beginning of big changes in regards to tech and work norms. Now, having the whole transition expedited, leaders everywhere are dealing with the aftermath. And if they want to maintain those high-level employees, they’ll need to know how to navigate through the change.

In this episode of Innovation Nation, I interview Bruce Tulgan, Founder and CEO of Rainmaker Thinking, about setting manager expectations, the technological transformation, and how to innovate when the stakes are high.

Join us as we discuss:

  • Innovations that every manager should be focusing on
  • How to keep communications & interactions more human
  • Finding innovation through troubling situations
  • Bridging the soft skills gap 

Tune in on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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Innovation is all around us. Infact, everyone innovates, often unbeknowns to themselves. Many mistakenly assumed the innovationis either a big capital project, a figurative bolt of lightning that brings inspiration, or the province of some exceptionally gifted person. This is the myth ofinnovation. But you can innovate as well. You're listening to innovation nation, thepodcast where top executives and industry experts are sharing their insights on harnessing thepower of innovation. We're here to help you stay ahead of the curve bydriving your own innovation. Here's your host, Jasmine Martyr Rosen Hi. Welcome toanother episode of Innovation Nation. This is your host, Jasmine Marchal Austin, and our guest today is Bruce Toligan, who has moved from his legal careerto a successful career of a consultant and thought leader. He's company doesa lot of consulting on human capital management and he's an author of over twentybooks and growing. Welcome, Bruce. Thank you so much for having me. It's an honor and a pleasure to be with you. So, Bruce, do you talk a lot about the changes and trends in the market placewhere it comes to winning the talent war, on how to manage people, chainof command leadership, what innovations can you think about in the area thatyou know every manager this day and age should focus on? Well, Imean, look, there's so many things going on right now. One thingis over the last eighteen months, everything things changed. A whole bunch ofpeople are, you know, realizing well, maybe it doesn't matter where I workand when I work, right and and in a lot of their bosseswho were like, well, no, you know, you're somebody who gotit, you've got to work in the office, they're like, well,see, turns out, it out. So that's probably the biggest. Imean, look, you know, this is one of these historic transformational changes. What's what's really I mean, for me, what's always in the backof my head is that long before the pandemic, or or an up toimmediately before the pandemic, everything was changing already. It just that, youknow them, this huge accident of history intervened. So there's all. Imean. Look, globalization and technology, I've been shaping change for about thirteenzeroyears, but it's really picking up speed in the last decade. So Iwould say what the pandemic did is kind of magnify everything and it's but thatit's like if everything's on steroids. Right. The world was digital before the pandemic. It's nothing new. There was a lot of aiolready. It's nothingnew. It's just magnified certain trends and made it more obvious to others.Yeah, I think that's true. I mean I think, like what I'vebeen telling clients is we just had fifteen years of change in in eighteen monthsexactly. So what are people to look at, especially in this kind ofrapid, rampant phase of change that was brought on by the pandemic and people'skind of self insides are changing? How our managers and organizations to respond,to stay competitive and to innovate along with that change? Well, you know, what I always look at is the more things change, you know,what can you anchor yourself to that's not going to change? So, youknow, I think in this look, I started out studying young people inthe workplace. You know, I'm always going into organizations that are restructuring andre engineering, you know, organizations that are trying to push power down thechain of command and drive collaboration across functions. So you know, technology is youknow, institutions are in a state of constant flocks in the information tide, away, immediacy. Everything is is changing. What I always do istell leaders, Hey, remember, these are still human beings and we're notthat different from when we were running around in in in hunting bands, chasingafter gazels and willdebeasts and the human element it. We're still human beings andif you want to make your way through...

...change, you got to anchor yourselfto the things that aren't going to change. And so what I'm always looking atis how are people supporting each other, guiding each other, directing each otherand and and primarily, how a people communicate, because in this environment, I think the thing that's in jeopardy is keeping communications and interactions human.Absolutely. So, do you have any it's on that, specifically, howpeople should go about keeping the contagious and interactions more human? Yeah, Ithink you know so. So the way everybody's wired, if it were,or why are less, to be more precise, is you know that whatthe way we communicate right now, okay, is we touch base with each other, then we say hey, let me know if you need me.So we interrupt each other all day long, and then we're on electronic communication andthen we have an organized huddle, a meeting, right, and thenwhat happens? When do we have the most meaningful communication? When things gowrong and people are frustrated? Right, so, everything's going wrong, thenwe roll up our sleeves, drill down and have high structure, high substancecommunication. And so what I'm always urging is, okay, if you canhave these team huddles, they can't be a gesture and it's not like you'rehaving a meeting for the sake of having a meeting. So so I'm allabout take a walk every day and eat your vegetables. Right. So lookat why are you have right? Why? You got to do your push upsright, you got to stay you got to stay strong. So it'sso, why are you having a team huddle? And who's running those andhow are they being done? And, more to the point, look atyour one on one communication dynamics. Stop touching base and interrupting each other.The interruption is profoundly inefficient. Communicating only when things are going wrong. Youknow, there's very famous for stranger WHO's a bear, talking bear, I'msure you I loved. I love telling people outside this country about them.All. We have a talking bear. Is Very famous for strangers that belike, and so you know, Oh, yeah, and then America's be like, no, that's really true. But you know, smoking the bearersfamous for thinking it's a whole lot easier to prevent a fire than it isto put one out. And so you know, I think the way peopleare communicating is they're touching base and interrupting each other and everything Staccato. Andthen firefighting. And what I'm always trying to tell people is slow down andcommunicate clearly, high structure, high substance, one on one's spell out expectations.Make sure you pay attention to what you're asking of each other. Muchof what we say to each other at work is about asking each other forhelp. So slow down and tune into the ask what help is somebody askingyou for, and then make sure you know yeah, yeah, no,don't yes, Esch has people. Slow down. Make sure you can doit, make sure you're allowed to do it, and and you are notready to say yes to someone until you know exactly what you're going to do. Exactly when you're going to do it, exactly how you're going to do itand when you're going to deliver. Right. So, structure and sowhat I tell people is slow down and communicate, plan and every step ofthe way, plan, plan, look around the corner together. So whatthat looks like is, every day, who were your primary people who arerelying on you? Who are the primary people upon whom you're relying? Whenwas your last one on one? When your next one album? And theother thing I always tell people is who are your most prolific interrupters? Youyou know who's going to interrupt you this week, don't you have onyn't youschedule one on one with each of those people early in the week and maybetouch base at the end of the week too, and then ask yourself,be honest with yourself, who do you interrupt the most? So one ofthe things I do is I try to go right at the core of whoare we touching based with and who are we interrupting and just dive down deeperand put more structure and substance into those conversations. Yeah, it's a veryapt observation. When I've been language speaks for itself. Every they the phrasetouching base is so pervasive, but when... think about you're so right.It's like very quick and not substantive. Some yeah, so, so,so so do our research shows what the three most common questions people ask eachother. How's everything going to do? Just fine, everything I track?Huh? Any problems I should know? But I think it's under control.Those are the three most common questions people ask. How's everything going? IsEverything on track? Are there any problems I should know about? And eachof those is an invitation to wrap up the conversation quickly. And then yousay hey, later on, when I'm in the meddle, was something reallyimportant at the least convenient time possible. Could you please interrupt me? Right. That's how people communicate. I've even published articles on communication, where youknow, when people ask somebody how's it going and something this is fine,they're not expecting any answer. I mean, yeah, it's a man, I'mjust going through the nice sages, but exactly it's an invitation to wrapit up. And if you're the boss, then you're telling yourself all be padon the back. I just talk to that person, not really knowyou, and it's amazing when, some days, starts telling them how theyreally are feeling. Very often people will become fidgetty because that was not areal question intended, you know, to get a real answer. Yeah,I always tell people. So sometimes managers will be like, wait a minute, HMM, this guy might be onto something. What should I ask?And I say, Hey, tell me what you did, tell me howyou did it, show me. Hey, what do you plan to do?What's your plan? What steps you going to follow? Hey, tellme your plan. What are your priority? Say? What do you what arethe things you might not get to write? What? What are thethings you're gonna have a hard time with? What's going to get in your waytoday? Right, you know, you got to drill down and sometimesa year. You're so right. Our communications are so fleeting that people willnot even be expecting to speak up and share what they are really thinking.But I since when I have whenever I have new direct reports and I doone on ones, they'll come and quiet. I'm like, this is your time, I want to hear from you. What are your thoughts? What couldwe do differently? What could we do better it? Yeah, andI think that you know, one of the things we do is we trainmanagers how to make better use of that time. And all, it's yourtime, you do the talking, but our advice is, number one,you got to have these conversations more off the right number two, you gotto get your direct reports preparing an advance in writing. I called studying forthe test right. So we're not going to just come in and talk you. I want you to tell me. What decisions do you need made?What problems are you anticipating? What resources do you need help with? Showme your plan right, show me your work in progress right, so thatthey come in with a written agenda, they set the table, they comein prepared. Let them own this absolutely, and that sense of ownership is soimportant and driving change. I mean we talk in sometimes vacuous terms aboutthe culture, or the culture is this, or culturally would do that, butwe are all part of the culture like individually, all of us canshape it individually. All of us can make a difference. So kind oftaking a passive approach, saying is the culture doesn't give us too far oraccomplished too much. Culture is either by default or by design, and everysingle person needs to situate themselves in contacts and make choices about the role they'regoing to play and the contribution they're going to make. And what I alwaystell people is, you know, if things are changing and you want tobe part of that change, step one, anchor yourself what's not going to change. Use the tools that make you and your colleagues human and know what'snot going to change. Okay, then you can navigate through change. Samewith innovation, by the way, that it's you know, you're not JacksonPoblock, right. You know, uh, in a real innovation is iterative.So what's what do we know right... Are the best practices?Right? What do we know? Are the boundaries here? What's not upto you? Right? And then you're free to be creative. Well,you know what? Jackson pollock did not start like what we think of Jacksonpollock today. Right. He has early works are actually quite conventional and traditional. He had to evolve and if you look at all the artists in thehistory of art that have been like ground raking, you have to look atthe genesis of their work in the evolution, and they all start most often verytraditionally and Dan evolved. It's true of Picasso also, and even withJackson pollock at his latest stage work. I always say, you know,he wasn't splattering paint all over the room. He was at least he knew wherethe canvas was, and saying if you have direct reports and what youwant is for them to innovate, you gotta give him the canvas. Yougot to tell him what's not up to them. You got at least givenparameters. It is no gift to somebody who say going to room and becreative, going to room and innovate. Right, it's it's all this stuffisn't up to you. Now Go. How do you deal with a drivingabiding sets of perfectionism that so many people have or suffer from and that getsin the way of their performance? I mean, look, if you're flyinga plane, you want a very low error rate. If you're if you'reif if you're doing brain surgery, very low arrate. If you're running anuclear weapons research laboratory or a nuclear weapons launch site, you want a verylow air rate. By the way, we've worked with organizations in all thoseindustries and it's true it's a different kind of quality standard. But I alwaystell people in your day to day efforts, you know again, look at whereyou were. No fail zone needs to be and then don't fall victimto the myth of one hundred percent. Right. I caught the myth ofone hundred percent because I think the difference between ninety eight percent a hundred percentfor most work is quite, you know, a matter of judgment. It's subjectiveand and and there's so much people get done to a ninety eight percentthreshold. And then that last two percent is sort of the zone of failurefobes and and procrastinators now again, unless you're find a plane or running anuclear weapons lunch site or nuclear weapons labor or doing brain surgery. You know, usually ninety eight percent. That's pretty good, you know. And whatyou think is ninety eight percent, somebody else might think is a hundred elevenpercent. You know, you touched on the shift fear of failure, andI'm with you. If I'm on a plane, I definitely want that captaingoing down his check list right, but that's not an innovation. That's actuallymeeting the basic requirements and you don't want the pilot kind of turning the planeupside down in the name of innovation. That kind of misses the point exactly. It''s a very kind of straight trajectory. Want to go from a to bebringing people safely, you know, home or whatever they're going, orif he has you use the example of a surgeon, they definitely need tocount the tools they have so they do not leave something accidentally in a body, which is very easy to occur. That you want those checks and balancesright into that. And that's not in the name of innovation, that's ina name of basic meeting basic requirements. Well, but where does innovation happen? Right when a pilot gets into a pickle and the pilot has to extrapolatefrom standard operating procedures and best practices in order to get out of a pickle. When a brain surgeon gets into a pickle? Yeah, and and theyhave to and they have to extrapolate from their standard operating procedures, their bestpractices and their training. That's true. If soldiers, that's true anywhere we'reinnovation almost always comes from is extrapolating from best practices, at least iterative innovation. Now, I'm not saying that people...

...don't have wake up in the middleof the night with an epiphany in a light bulb. Is Hanging over theirhead and their mind and so, Oh wow, we're gonna, you know, I got an idea. Forget taxis. We're going to create uber or whatever. You know, we're you know it's going to be, you know, fudge ripple ice cream. I got it. You know. But,but, but most real innovation comes from people running into trouble and getting outof trouble, and the best way to get out of trouble is to iterateand extrapolate from what you already know, our best practice. Well then you'rehitting on a very important issues and looking at everything kind of in a Kaisand approach, saying what can I do better? How can I do thisbetter, and constantly kind of building on that one at a time, andthat makes a huge difference. I mean Chelsea Sollenberger. He went against everyfay and procedure and against command from the tower when he pulled off the miracleon the Hudson. But he had integrative thinking and each time he had beenover the years, over his career, he'd been thinking what else can Ido better? And he had integrated that and he was able to pull thatoff in that drastic moment and save so many lives exactly. I mean that'sthat is exactly. I mean that's what in the real world right that Imean look, look over the history of the last thirteenzero years of human technology. How does technology happen? How do innovations really happen? So I think, you know, one of things that amuses me greatly is when we watchpeople in environments that are meant to be innovation environments, let's say laboratories,and you know, it's so interesting to interview those folks and you know,you put them in a room innovative, be creative, you know, andthen they're all like, you know, it's that's a that's not really howit works. That's really important, but was so one of your first booksfocused on Gen x, managing gen x, and now jen x are pretty muchin positions of power, seeing and readership roles many of them, andthe languels are coming up and millenials are turning for days. So you knowthey're not the DEN Z of today. What trends are changes are you seeingin the marketplace that you know UN notable from your early writings that you woulddiscuss today? Yeah, I mean look, so what's the same? You know, when jen x was were coming into the workplace. It was likethey're disloyal, they have short attentions, fans, they don't want to workas hard, they demand immediate gratification, they want everything their own way andthey want it right now. Like HMM. You know, there's a long rangeterm of art. We used to describe that phenomenon. We call itkids today, right, and they're you know, some some of that isjust about being the latest young upstarts. But but look, you know,there is a transformation going on here. Institutions are in a state of constantfluxed. So there's nothing grown up about hitching your wagon of the Star andestablished organization, pay your dues, climb the ladder, do as you're told, wait for the system to take care of you. That's very risky behavior. Now, yeah, right, like like. So, so, youknow, they look at young people's old they're disloyal. They're not disloyaled.They're plugged into the reality of uncertainty and in an uncertain environment, long termhierarchical thinking doesn't make sense in it. In an uncertain environment, short termtransactional thinking is what makes sense. Right. They they're saying, oh well,they're all free agents, every single one of them. Thanks. They'rein business for themselves. Well, welcome to America. You know self.reliances old as the hills. That's what made this country great. See EMERSTON. You know, the information tidal wave. Now that is a historical that's atransformation of historical significance. Right, the speed of technology, immediacy,is the only real time, the information...

...tidal wave. But even that soused to be. You know, you had to figure out how to getyour hands on good information. Now the biggest thing you have to do isfigure out how to get your hands on good information. Now we're drowning innonsense and and and, you know, two plus two weequals five. Thatis the last sentence of George Orwell's one thousand nine hundred and eighty four.Two Plus Two weekuals five. And we now live in a world where awhole bunch of people are credibly arguing that two plus two weequals five. Anda whole bunch of people are like, you know, maybe it does,and they have a platform now. Right, everybody can be a publisher today.Right, and it's very confusing. Oh look, my expert says toplus two equals five. Will your experts some more on yeah, right,so, so I think that, you know, people are operating in aninformation title wave. The pace of change is accelerating, uncertainty is is tremendous. I think today's Gen Zer's right. You know, people say, well, Oh, well, where do they get this attitude? Where did theyget this attitude? They're living in an environment of danger, of environmental collapse, danger of terrorism, danger of war, danger of economic crisis. You know, they're like children the s. But but the children of the s? If children of the s learned how to think, learn and communicate whileattached to a handheld super computer, and we're raised by helicopter parents on steroids. You know, they they're like a speed new species. And and andyou know, because we're living through this profound change in history. And,by the way, you know most people, most older, more experience, peoplelook at younger people and say, well, they'll grow up and settledown right, but every so often in history that doesn't happen. Every sooften in history what happens is the younger people don't get more and more likethe older people. The older people get more and more like the younger peopleand I think this is one of those times we are living through. Soso much is the same, you know, yeah, but but we are livingthrough real transformational time and and luck. You know things like, you know, is American democracy going to continue? Like that's a big question. Nobodywould ask that thirty years ago or twenty or or seven years ago.Yeah, so that that's very interesting to see how we see different questions comingon the scene that before would not even be asked or question. He saidsomething very important. He said being able to discern the information. To me, it's one of the marks of being educated and surviving well today, knowingthe difference what education is correct or not. Right. Absolutely, and I'll tellyou something. So one of my books is called bridging the soft skillsgas and one of the things that people are worried about is critical thinking.Right. So one of the things we did is unpacked what is critical thinkingreally and the first part is you have to have a foundation of basic factsand logic. And you know, we're going to teach people to think critically. Well, don't they need to know some stuff first so they have somethingto think about? If they don't know some facts, what will they bethinking about? You know. So. So, first you have to knowa bunch of facts and logic, rules of logic, right, and andand so that's foundational learning. And then second thing, oh, problem solving. Well, now, most problems have been encountered already and solved, right. So most problem solving is learning repeatable solutions. Right, and it turnsout decisionmaking is just this one small piece when you come up against problems offirst impression, and and and and and. So I think that you know whenpeople are staying. Well, how do we get people to that information? Oh, well, I that's a good source. Right where? That'snot a good source. Okay, that's a good start, but you alsoneed to be able to recognize nonsense. Absolutely any key questions that you wishI had asked you and I did not...

...bruise. I mean, you know, how can people hire re maker thinking? Where do we get your books?Tell us about your wife's new book. That spell us about that. Mymy wife's new book is called Madam, the biography of polly Adler, iconof the Jazz Age, and it just got a great review in theNew York Times. And you know, we're holding not hold onto your hat. Wait, wait for the movie. That's congratulations. I'm happy to hereand I know Raym maker thinking does a great job advising organizations on how toimprove their talent management and approaches. And you know you're a very inspirational publicspeaker. I've heard you before and you know the audience was in rapture it. And thank you so much for taking the time to join our podcast.That's some kind of you. Thank you so much your you've done this before. You're good at this. So what you made it so easy and youmade it so much fun. Thank you. Thank you so much again. Thiswas another episode of Innovation Nation. This is your host, Jasmine marchto us. Thanks for joining us. You've been listening to innovation nation.For more subscribe to the podcast in your favorite podcast player or connect with uson Linkedin. Thanks for listening.

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