Last Friday evening, I tweeted a request for potential blog topics. @DrStrik9 requested a post on innovation amid competing objectives or multiple bosses. It's a situation that's very realistic, and while it can be challenging, here are some steps to take:

  • Understand the Political Fray - Make sure you have a strong read on the business culture and the political ins and outs of the business. That foundation is key to navigating successfully through varied perspectives.
  • Stay Rooted in the Fundamental Question - "What are we trying to achieve?" Amid differing points of view, you want to be able to demonstrate that your actions and perspectives tie back to what's right for the business.
  • Actively Manage Relationships - Differing points of view suggest at least two parties involved. That means you'll likely have to take on a mediator role to strengthen relationships among the contending parties.
  • Identify Areas of Mutual Agreement among Apparently Conflicting Objectives - Find where even conflicting points of view share some commonality. If you can discern points of mutual agreement, you have a base from which to attempt to bring conflicting areas closer to alignment.
  • Don't Make Decisions in One-Off Conversations - If you're working with contending authority figures, use one-on-one conversations (or emails) to ask questions, better understand points of view, and identify areas of potential compromise. Don't use them as decision making opportunities. Doing so means you'll wind up going back and forth negotiating decisions. Instead, push decision making to joint meetings where all parties are present. This may require strategic delays or bluffing, but you'll be in a better position to manage a discussion toward getting decisions made (and sticking) when all parties are involved at the same time.

That's a starting point for something that can certainly be stressful and difficult to do. It would be great to hear what any of you have done in similar situations - what's worked and not worked for you?

Want more ideas? Go back and take a look at the "Taking the NO Out of InNOvation" post, especially number 2 on "NO Direction" and number 7 on "NO Motivation to Innovate" for links to a few more approaches.