Spend some time with world class innovators and you’ll feel like you’re plotting a revolution with Che Guevara and his mates. Head to a biotech facility or drop in on a faculty meeting at a top-flight university and you’ll experience some first-class boat rockers in action. There will be intellectual push and shove. There has to be, or nothing will happen. The innovation process gets messy, stressful and even argumentative. This is how it works. At its most emotive, watching innovators fight for their ideas can look and feel like they’re trying to destroy each other. At its best, it feels like Michelangelo and his Florentine artisans constructing a masterpiece. The tension created between these two innovation bookends moulds intellectual creativity until it morphs into something sublime. Sadly, too many leaders focus on building consensus first and that should come last. So, let the innovators loose, give them permission and freedom to fail and watch the impossible become possible.
Onguard’s leaders understand this, which makes them both rare and brave at the same time. Having been involved in the project early on, I have had the privilege to witness the full concept-to-customer journey. The birth and evolution of an idea has been commercialized. Onguard has already saved customers millions of dollars. Innovation works…it’s how we progress. Changing anything is hard though. We humans are by nature, incredibly resistant to change. We don’t like it…at all. Offering up a new idea means having the moxie to challenge traditional and resistant mind-sets. This isn’t a walk in the park either because the process of introducing a new idea means disrupting the status quo and that can get emotional, political, challenging and often stressful. Push back is a barrier new ideas need to break through to be successful, and this was certainly the case at first with Onguard’s new system.
Onguard’s mastery of constructive conflict has evolved over time, but the latent DNA underpinning the company’s ability to out-think competitors has always been inherent in their business model. Being insightful enough to ask hard ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions sounds pretty straight forward, even obvious, but the reality for most organizations is very different. Most organizations just keep on keeping on. They keep doing the same thing over and over again. Infinite insanity. Of course, asking the right question is one thing, coming up with the right answer is another. Driving the whole process is the ability to think reflectively whilst applying experience acquired over time to solve a problem or challenge. In this case, the problem to be solved was protecting wine tanks from persistent and expensive earthquake damage. This is where the conversation started.
To innovators like me, the process of coming up with the solution is as interesting as the solution itself. That’s because the real power and value on display with a company like Onguard is the ability to innovate. That’s why I would choose to use these guys. Why would I want to engage with companies that can’t figure stuff out? Think about that for a minute. What this company has come up with through applied innovation is an entirely new way of protecting liquid storage tanks. That’s a paradigm shift, and in my eyes, that’s as cool as it gets. It isn’t something we see every day either. We certainly don’t see the effort and constructive conflict going on behind the scenes. Doing it well takes some real leadership and it’s something we should celebrate. Onguard had the courage to take a moon shot and it’s something we need to see way more of.