Trust and innovation are not usually used in the same sentence. It’s not that they are inherently in opposition but rather that they’re considered in different contexts. The concept of trust is highlighted in articles about leadership and teamwork while innovation is associated with creativity and risk taking, profits and products. But ultimately they are related. Which is why I grounded last week’s session of my class (Teaming for innovation) on trust as the basis of teamwork and therefore critical to supporting innovation. A reasonable connection but one that is rarely acknowledged as such.
My guest speaker that evening, Nina Bhatti – principal scientist at HP Labs- arrived and gave several examples of projects she had initiated and led. [One of the most interesting was ColorMatch, which made it possible to match skin tone to makeup foundation shades using photos from any cell phone in any lighting condition]. When she talked about teams, one of her slides said: “Strict no jerks policy” which led her to highlighting the importance of team members being able to trust each other to foster the necessary experimentation and risk-taking inherent in innovation. A real life testimony to the importance of trust in innovation.
Totally unrelated, the next day a colleague sent me a link to Innovation- The Critical Link to Trust. [Talk about serendipity]. The led me to Theory Y Meets Generation Y a recent article from the London School of Economics that discusses how Microsoft realized the importance of trust in fostering innovation and did something about it. I continued to find a handful of other articles connecting trust and innovation- but they are few and far between.
If you want to help your company or your team to be more innovative, ask yourself (and them- if you trust them)- what are you doing to help others develop trust in you and each other?