Integrity & Innovation

Something happened to me yesterday that I’m still processing. Think of trying to blend peanut butter and sand –it’s a sticky and abrasive emotional mess.

Sparing you the gory details, it has to do with someone not doing what they said they would do.  Now, they said they would do this thing without any pressure, they made a committment.  Well, as we all know, situations and feelings change, and, my friend and associate reneged. I said I understood, and I do, but its left a hole in my project and frankly, in my heart. We’re still friends but now it’s a bit different, sadly. I’ll get over it, people aren’t perfect. I still love my friend.

Beyond the emotional upset, which I could only express in the mildest of ways, I’m left to clean up the mess and fix something.  There’s not enough time to do it right, and so, I’ve been compromised, and the result is a product that is less than it would have been.

It has me thinking about the integrity of one’s word.  It’s a simple point I’ll make here about it’s connection to Innovation. Great products and services depend on trust in order to create and deliver.  When trust is broken, when word is broken, processes, products, and teams, break down.

One of the reasons Gandhi was so effective, without guns, was because he was utterly reliable. The British hated him, but, knew that if he said there would be 10,000 people out for a peaceful protest, they knew, as sure as the sun would rise — they would be there. They trusted his word, and it made all the difference.

If you’re looking to innovate, start with doing what you say you’ll do. If you want to be extraordinary, start with taking extraordinary measures to keep your word.

    • Crappy situation, Greeg. I’m sure you’ll make Lemonade. Does remind me of something though. Was sitting on an Innovation panel here at VCU in RIC in April and I said something that seemed fairly banal to me: Innovation is hard. The conversation got interesting after that: those truly vested in startups or really breaking boundaries in corps very interested in talking about the stamina, character, community and optimism required of the thing. The posers? They listened politely, commneted obtusely when they did speak, then resumed their agenda of building a “Center where Innovation can happen.” As you imply, Innovation is a sensibilty and basket of internal traits/urges that keep the thing moving despite setbacks or doubts. It truly separates the men and women of character from the boys and girls looking for novelty only.

    • Lemonade is in fact emerging, and in an unexpected way, so perhaps I should be sending a thank you note.

      And as you note, it’s more than integrity, it’s also other basic character traits that set up innovation success. Innovation is Very Hard if the truth be known, and stamina, and perseverance in the face of monstrous challenges is a requirement.

      Thanks as always for your insightful comments.

    • Amen Gregg. Integrity really is key to innovation and certainly leadership, which I believe is required of everyone not just titular “leaders.” Posner and Kouzes talk about Integrity as DWYSYWD (Do What You Say You Will Do), which is a simple way to talk about it. Like Mr. Brady’s comment, amazing how many people give lip service to Integrity without knowing how hard it really is. I guess that’s why it’s notable when it shows up. Would love to share a glass of lemonade and chew on this topic some more!

      • It is notable when it shows up. Interesting that most people take it for granted, so, there is a huge gap out there between people who DWYSYWD and those who don’t.

    • You are dead on with this. If you don’t have integrity then you don’t have anything. One topic that keeps coming up lately is “how to build your personal social capital” which really just boils down to doing what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it.

      People will notice.

      • The thing is, we are coached, and society approves of, people being “reasonable.” Which often means people are okay with commitments slipping, and situational morality. I’m all for being reasonable in human relations, but in order to build that social capital you speak of, you really have to be unreasonable when it comes to keeping your word. In other words, sometimes you need to go to extraordinary and difficult measures to keep your word. I can think of times in my entrepreneurial career when I pulled an all night-er to deliver to a client when I said I would. The client may have understood if I hadn’t, that would have been reasonable. The client probably would not have been impressed, however.

        People will indeed notice when they know you’ve gone the extra mile to do what you say you will do.

    • Judit

      great idea with that Thank you note! And let us know about the new lemonade flavour you created.

      • I’m getting some people involved that I had ruled out before, and I’ve been surprised and delighted with the receptivity.

    • Here’s an irreverent take on Integrity and how critical it is for innovation:

    • Aditya

      Gandhi not Ghandi – please fix typo (after all its a post on integrity!)

      • Good point! Glad this is not a post on spelling…

Posted in Creativity and Self-Expression, Innovation, Inspirational