“Leadership is all about giving people permission to chase their wildest imaginations!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
(A photo from my keynote for Siemens Energy CEO session last November in Orlando. The CEO actually arrived on stage in a DeLorean – I followed him moments later, and it was a fantastic way to set the stage for my talk on the future!)
Great leaders don’t crush ideas – they encourage them. They don’t put in place barriers that prevent people from pursuing bold ideas – they provide pathways that might help to encourage the voyage. They don’t restrict the thinking of their most innovative team members by stifling their creativity – they give them the room to explore their ideas.
They give them an Xbox room! Let me explain.
Half of the events I do as a futurist and innovation expert are spent at corporate leadership events. I’m frequently engaged by a CEO or other senior executive for a global Fortune 1000 company to come in and challenge their team as to how to align to a fast-paced, disruptive future. After all, the reality is that speed is a new success metric. There’s a lot of work and customization that goes into each and every talk — one time, I met with 20 executives in the nuclear industry and spent a lot of time updating myself as to trends in the energy and nuclear sector so that I could guide and challenge their thinking in a powerful way.
While researching and preparing, or while delivering my insight, I’ve noticed an increasing number of organizations are seeking to set their innovation energies on fire by encouraging their younger, interactive generation to explore opportunities for the digital, disruptive future through what I’ve come to call an Xbox room! Why? Because this generation gets it, knows how to innovate, and is the most powerful force for change in our world today. Consider the reality:
- half of the global population is under the age of 25
- we know they are globally wired, entrepreneurial, collaborative, and change-oriented
- and they are now driving rapid business model change, and industry transformation as they move into executive positions
With that reality, organizations are realizing they should allow this generation to light their creative energies on fire, even if they aren’t sure as to what they might do or where their efforts might go! The idea is to set them up with an innovation facility by which they can explore and accelerate the adoption of leading digital tools throughout the organization that can accelerate innovation efforts, provide for better collaboration and so much more.
Case in point: I spent some time in St. Louis with Amsted Rail: they manufacture the ‘bogies’ which are the wheel-undercarriage assemblies found on railcars. And the tour included what they call their iLab — or, what I would call for the fun of it, an Xbox room! In this facility, they are continually examining a variety of ideas as to how to continue to move the organization forward. This includes exploring a variety of ideas and technologies, including:
- state-of-the-art brainstorming centers to facilitate ideas colliding from all corners of our company
- real-time employee collaboration tools across geographically diverse sites (to promote “a collision of ideas”)
- how to use connected SMART Boards to simultaneously write/draw/share over any application using “digital ink”
- 3D scanning/modeling systems to enhance product R&D and quality capabilities
- advanced tensile testing techniques for enhanced product strength & durability
I had a chance to chat with the young fellows in the “Xbox room” — and listen to their ideas. It’s obvious it’s a rocket engine for innovative thinking! That’s but one example: the more I witness what organizations are doing to accelerate innovation, the more I discover some sort of ‘Xbox room,’ a runway for their imagination.
A few years back, I opened a major conference on the future of trucking in Phoenix. While on stage, I spoke about a company in Winnipeg, Canada — Bison Trucking. They’ve set up a facility to encourage younger staff to explore how to align the fast pace of technological change in trucking to opportunities for digital technologies — read an extensive blog post about their efforts in the post Trend: In Trucking, Aircraft Control Towers Are the New Offices.
There are plenty of other examples – Xbox rooms seem to be springing up everywhere! Here I am on stage in Muscat, Oman at a conference, talking about the concept in a Q&A.
Here’s what you need to think about:
- you should set up a digital facility with all kinds of ‘toys’ relevant to your industry, and set the creative energies of a group of young staff free to explore
- don’t set any specific goals, objectives or deliverables on the project — simply set it free to explore!
- explain the purpose and mission of the group to the rest of the organization, and encourage them to bring unique problems to the group
Go ahead – make an Xbox room!