Womble Bond Dickinson’s transatlantic Innovation Week 2022 kicked off on March 14 with a presentation by Copenhagen-based author, speaker and strategist Stefan Lindegaard

A thought leader in innovation for more than 25 years, Lindegaard spoke on innovation in the workplace and how what he calls “the growth mindset” is key to promoting practices and approaches that encourage innovation.

Traits of Innovation Companies

Lindegaard said a few companies win—and so many lose—in the innovation arena. In his research, he’s found four specific traits that successful innovation companies do better than their competitors:

  1. Listen—To customers, ecosystems and markets. 
  2. Adapt—Go from tacit to shared knowledge. Then, change and adapt in agile ways based on your insights.
  3. Experiment— “You have to learn from successes and failures,” Lindegaard said. He said experimentation should include organizational structures and behaviors, not just technology, service processes and business models.
  4. Execute—Align business processes with the other key traits (Listen, Adapt, Experiment).

Should everyone work with innovation? Not necessarily—but everyone needs the opportunity to contribute in their particular work area.

“The essence of the growth mindset in an organizational context is to instill a mindset that is wired toward always trying to get better rather than believing—and proving—that you are the best,” Lindegaard said. Or, as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has said, “Don’t be a know-it-all—be a learn-it-all.”   

Four Myths Surrounding the Growth Mindset

Lindegaard noted that certain myths surround the growth mindset:

  1. Growth mindset equals business growth and profits. Instead, it is the belief that improvement is possible and failures are an opportunity to learn.
  2. You have either a growth or fixed mindset. No, people have a hybrid mindset with traits of both, and whether one is stronger than the other is often situational. Lindegaard says people should know themselves and be careful how they label others.
  3. Organizations, rather than people, can have a growth mindset. No, but there is an overlap. A mindset is a personal thing. In an organizational context, the goal is to instill an approach of continuous improvement—and having team members buy into a growth mindset is important to that.
  4. You have to be positive all the time. Not true—everyone has ups and downs. A growth mindset is more about self-awareness and personal development.

What Makes a Team Great?

It is easy to lose sight of improvement goals when team members get lost in day-to-day work. But fostering the following traits can help ensure that a growth mindset is sustainable.

  • A Collective Growth Mindset. Team members are curious and learn-it-all, rather than know-it-all, types.
  • Psychological Safety. Defined by Prof. Amy Edmondson as “a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.” Team members can have hard conversations and manage feedback in constructive ways. They take risks, as they feel confident and secure. “If you do not develop psychological safety, you will have trouble creating innovation,” Lindegaard said.
  • Clarity of Purpose and Meaning. The purpose and objectives of the team are clear and well-aligned with the “What’s in it for me?” question on the individual level.
  • Transparency, Trust and Dependability. There is a risk involved when people decide to open up and trust and depend on each other. But the rewards are far greater.
  • Gets Stuff Done. Nothing matters if the team doesn’t produce. 

People tend to rate themselves as having a growth mindset, but think others need to improve. 

“That’s a pretty big problem. If you want to improve, everyone needs to improve,” Lindegaard said. He also said team members need context for how the growth mindset applies to their specific work environment.

“You cannot leave innovation to a select few people within an organization. There are so many ways you can get involved.”

Stefan Lindegaard

Navigating Your Mindset Zones

Lindegaard explained that people typically have multiple “mindset zones,” of which the growth mindset is just one. 

The “comfort zone” is where people feel safe and in control. Judith Bardwick, a noted business author and speaker, said, “The comfort zone is a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without risk.” 

The comfort zone is sometime advantageous—people need a safe place to recharge and regroup, Lindegaard said. But there are limits, in that staying in a comfort zone limits a person’s growth.

“No one should push you out of your comfort zone all of the time,” Lindegaard said. “What you want to do is be able to go in and out of your comfort zone.”

The next step is the “fear zone,” which is characterized by excuse-making, a lack of self-confidence, and others’ opinions impacting how the person feels. 

Next is the “learning zone,” in which a person becomes open toward challenges and problems. This zone is where people become curious, expand their tool boxes and acquire new skills. 

Finally, there is the “growth zone.” This is where people find their purpose, set their goals and pursue their dreams.

Lindegaard said leaving the comfort zone first requires defining it and its boundaries. He also recommends examining what causes stress and how you respond in those situations. Connecting with like-minded people, making curiosity a process and experimenting with new activities (and accepting that they may not be successful) are other keys to getting beyond your comfort zone.

The Big Picture for Corporate Innovation

Enacting institutional change is much more difficult than changing personal behavior. But companies can do more to enact innovation in the workplace. 

Lindegaard said he has identified more than 40 different mechanisms to promote innovation within companies. These activities can occur at all levels of an organization.

“You cannot leave innovation to a select few people within an organization,” Lindegaard said. “There are so many ways you can get involved.”

Some of these innovation-building activities include:

  • Aligning corporate strategy with innovation strategy;
  • Building an infrastructure for knowledge collaboration and project management;
  • Developing metrics for organizational improvement;
  • Create a better balance between day-to-day activities and future-focused activities;
  • Address root causes of obstacles and barriers;
  • Assess the company’s values in the context of innovation and shaping the future;
  • Know the dynamics of the company’s networks and ecosystems in the context of innovation; and
  • Understand customers and clients when shaping future plans.

He also said that innovation should address pursuing opportunities, not just solving problems.

“Nothing really happens if you don’t get the top leadership committed and involved,” Lindegaard said.

Innovation Week 2022 was presented by the Womble Bond Dickinson Innovation Board. Sam Dixon, UK Head of Innovation and a member of the Innovation Board, provided introductory remarks for Lindegaard’s presentation. Click here to follow Stefan Lindegaard on LinkedIn.