For example, several years ago, I attended a corporate meeting where the vice president spoke about streamlining business practices in the coming year. During the talk, executives around the room nodded in agreement. Afterward, though, many of them discussed what streamlining actually meant. None of the people who had nodded in agreement could exactly define the mechanics ofhow to streamline a business practice.
No matter the scale, discovering your explanatory gaps is essential for aspiring innovatorsAn undiagnosed gap in knowledge means you might not fully understand a problem. That can hinder innovative solutions.To discover the things you can’t explain, take a lesson from teachers. When you instruct someone else, you have to fill the gaps in your own knowledge. But you don’t need to wait for the opportunity to teach someone else: Explain concepts to yourself as you learn them.Get in the habit of self-teaching. Your explanations will reveal your own knowledge gaps and identify words and concepts whose meanings aren’t clear. Engage others in collaborative learning.Help identify the knowledge gaps of the people around you. Ask them to explain difficult concepts, even if you think everyone understands them. Not only will this help you to work through new ideas, it will occasionally uncover places where your colleagues don’t understand critical aspects of an explanation. When you do uncover these gaps, treat them as learning opportunities, not signs of weakness. After all, successful innovation rests on the assumption that you and the people around you have a high-quality understanding of the problem. Sometimes, uncovering the flaw in that assumption will help you find a solution.