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Jolt #6 Fuel Innovation With Values, Not Just Value

This Jolt is is an excerpt from a forthcoming book by Debra and William Miller of Values Centered Innovation

When it comes to innovation, there is an important distinction between "value" vs "values" (with an "s"). "Value" refers to the tangible and intangible benefits derived as a result of our innovative efforts. "Values" refers to the motivating factors that inform and energize those efforts.

Our values shape the answers to 3 key questions: "Why are we innovating?" "What do we want to innovate?" and "How should we innovate" Thus, our values are the fuel for the entire "innovation" show!

Values drive value. But what drives values? For us, it depends on the "source" we draw from: human values or social values.

We define human values as the positive qualities of good character found across cultures and time, based on our higher human nature - values such as caring, honestly, doing no harm, trust, and keeping promises. Whereas social values are the qualities that enculturate and bond us within our diverse cultures. Sometimes social values reflect human values and sometimes they don't.

When we choose human values as the source for motivating and guiding our innovative efforts, they propel us to patiently seek higher wisdom, grow as a human being, and be bold yet humble in thought, word, and action.

And yet... we know that trying to preach or push and agenda of human values when we're innovating doesn't work. So, what does?

A good example is Lars Kolind, the CEO of Oticon, a global hearing aid company. Here's how he led the company through a crucial period of innovating and revitalizing its future:

"What inspired me was the fact that we were dealing with people who had enormous personal problems due to lack of hearing. This led me to see that fundamentally our job was to add to the quality of life of those we served.

We examined every corner of the company, and I asked the question a hundred times: 'Does this help people with impaired hearing to live better with the hearing they have, or does it not?' We were closing departments and initiating projects in order to actually live this.

It turned out to be a fabulous expression of what we stood for. It was so powerful, even though it was not developed by any marketing people, or consultants, or advertising agencies. It was from working again and again on the question, 'what can we do? What should we do?'"

Lars Kolind tapped into the potency of asking "human values" questions to fuel their innovative efforts. Such human values questions are the onramp to access our higher human nature and lead us to innovate in positive, meaningful ways. Such values are the source of true value.

 Now it's your turn! Try on this Mindset Jolt in your own life and work using the Conscious Innovator® process:

  • Become aware - What is 1 new awareness you have about yourself, others, and your situation?
  • Identify your capability - What is 1 personal value and 1 strength you can draw from and put into practice?
  • Take versatile action - What is 1 action you can take to apply your awareness and capability in ways you have not thought of before?

Ready to start letting values shape your innovation efforts?

Browse innovation training from Values Centered Innovation

About the Authors

Debra Miller and William Miller have dedicated their careers to enabling “conscious innovation”. Debra draws from her experience as an IT executive and business coach, while William completed his tenure as Head of Innovation Management at the Stanford Research Institute. Together, they balance inner transformation with mastering new competencies for bringing out the innovative best with “every person, every job, every day.”

Debra Miller and William Miller

Last updated: 12 May 2022

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