There is an inherent tension between the rule-followers and the dreamers.
The truth is, both sides of this behavioral coin are necessary for innovation.
The problem organizations face isn’t a lack of creativity, but rather finding a balance between the big ideas and the practical implementation of those ideas.
Let’s take a look at an example of how one man used these two seemingly opposing forces to bring innovation and cutting-edge solutions to his company.
When Dinesh Paliwal took over Harman International, a company that creates the world’s most sophisticated, specialized and expensive dashboard audiovisual systems, it dominated 70% of the luxury car market.
This was two-thirds of the company’s revenue – not leaving much room for growth.
The solution for most CEO’s in this position would be to strip down their existing technology to attempt to sell it at a lower cost.
Paliwal had a different idea, however.
Being a natural improviser, he assembled a team to brainstorm how to provide a quality product at a reduced cost. He named the initiative “Saras,” which means “adaptable.”
He challenged his team to change their perspective and to creatively combat the idea that more expensive equals better.
The team (the “dreamers”) was small and diverse - comprised of people with various skill sets, nationalities and education. And, it was located in an emerging market.
Their goals were lofty.
They set out to create an infotainment system that worked as well as the expensive luxury models for one-third of the production cost of the high-end model. On top of that, they wanted to be able to sell the system for half the price.
The campaign ended up being hugely successful.
Sounds like a happy ending, right?
While the outcome was successful, the process did have some hiccups along the way.
The engineers (the “rule-followers”) were suspicious of the project and were certain that it would ruin the company’s reputation for the highest quality. They hated the idea so much that they actually refused to contribute.
Paliwal’s response was to get new engineers who didn’t have preconceived notions of the possibilities.
But that wasn’t the end of the challenges.
When the product was finished, the salespeople were resistant because they were afraid their commissions would be inadequate.
Through all the difficulties, Paliwal and his team continued to show the qualities of great improvisers.
They said, “Yes, and” to ideas, learned valuable lessons from their mistakes, were patient with the process, stayed open-minded and supported each other.
Four years from the time Paliwal took over as CEO of the company, his new idea had generated more than $3 billion in revenue and was the standard for how to successfully serve both ends of the market.
Paliwal’s story demonstrates what’s possible when a strong leader finds a way to bridge the gap between those who dream and those who follow the rules.
Allow room for creativity and improvisation to come up with the innovative ideas that can then be implemented by the people who are detail-oriented and driven.
A good leader will push the dreamers and the rule-followers to speak up, and provide encouragement throughout the execution.
Are you the kind of leader who inspires your employees to use their various perspectives to work together?
Identify the strengths of the members of your team and encourage cooperation between those with different competencies.