Listening to Innovation

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Listening is an essential ingredient for innovation.

Eric Lewis listens to the world differently than the rest of us, and as a result, is creating the next evolution of jazz.  I had the joy of seeing him a number of years ago–before the hair–when he was playing with Wynton Marsalis.  Then, he was electric.  Now, he is unleashed!  His version of Evanescence’s “Going Under” is inspired.  He captures the raw energy of alternative rock, the spirit of classical jazz, and a plays with a passion that is transcendent.

Innovators, like all masterful change artists, understand the essence of things.  And that’s a level of listening that goes beyond just hearing.  Innovators get under the skin of things, not to control them, but to appreciate them and to empathize.  It’s that deep understanding, when combined with the same depth of perception in other areas, that opens up their ability to synthesize, make connections, morph and discover new possibilities.

In a panel at Wharton’s 125th anniversary celebration, C. Robert Henrikson, chairman and CEO of global insurer MetLife, said, “All parts of the organization must have a sense of the customers’ business to anticipate their needs and reach out with innovative ideas.”   In the same panel discussion, New York City developer Jeffrey Katz, CEO of Sherwood Equities, a major investor in Times Square, said business leaders must remain open to what comes their way in order to capitalize on opportunities.

Having a sense of; being open; empathizing.  That’s about listening.  Creating an innovation culture depends upon it.

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