Explore for inspiration, then test and focus

Cultivate exploration:

As a leader, you want to encourage people to entertain “unreasonable ideas” and give them time to formulate their hypotheses. Demanding data to confirm or kill a hypothesis too quickly can squash the intellectual play that is necessary for creativity.

Then ruthlessly prioritize for focus:

[Force] teams to focus narrowly on the most critical technical uncertainties and [rapidly experiment for] faster feedback. The philosophy is to learn what you have gotten wrong early and then move quickly in more-promising directions.

From Gary P. Pisano writing on organizational culture for HBR. Concurrence from Paul E. McKenney, who emphasizes:

[S]tress-testing ideas early on avoids over-investing in the inevitable blind alleys.

But what kind of tests does Pisano suggest?

[do] not run experiments to validate initial ideas. Instead, […] design “killer experiments” that maximize the probability of exposing an idea’s flaws.

On building a culture of candid debate

A good blueprint for [building a culture of candid debate] can be found in General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s battle-plan briefing to top officers of the Allied forces three weeks before the invasion of Normandy. As recounted in Eisenhower, a biography by Geoffrey Perret, the general started the meeting by saying, “I consider it the duty of anyone who sees a flaw in this plan not to hesitate to say so. I have no sympathy with anyone, whatever his station, who will not brook criticism. We are here to get the best possible results.”

Eisenhower was not just inviting criticism or asking for input. He was literally demanding it and invoking another sacred aspect of military culture: duty. How often do you demand criticism of your ideas from your direct reports?

From Gary P. Pisano in The Hard Truth About Innovative Cultures