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Permissive parenting and the innovative organization

While at home the other morning, I walked by my 9-year-old’s microscope left on the kitchen counter. Normally, clutter and forgotten belongings plague me at home, but I had the thought, what kind of Dad would tell his curious son, “put your damn microscope away!”? Wouldn’t that be like Louis Armstrong’s Mom saying “stop playing that confounded horn!” or Albert Einstein’s Dad saying “quit your endless daydreaming and come down to dinner!”?

I think in the US, at least, we’ve unintentionally been stifling curiosity, even for our children. This may be particularly true in a lot of organizations.

How often are people in organizations pressured to quit daydreaming? Is thinking about the future even ok in the corporation? There can’t be too many places where foresight is against the organization’s rules, but there are lots of places where people can just tell it’s not ok to speculate, think visionary thoughts, and in general take their focus off the here and now.

Executives are often rewarded for their expertise and focus on their jobs. That makes it harder and less likely that they will try out new ideas. They won’t feel like they have the right to put their best mental energy on new things, yet that’s the very thing we need them to do.

Organizations are unlikely to have effective, innovative, foresight-oriented cultures if their leaders don’t shape climates where it’s ok to think, explore, wander, experiment, and leave your damn microscope out on the counter.

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