I had a couple of interviews where I was told, “You don’t have a technology background.” I had to say, “It doesn’t matter. I’m smart and agile and can learn quickly.” I had to prove myself, check my ego at the door, and show that I’m a lifelong learner who can get my hands dirty and connect with people who really get the business, so I could learn to speak their language.
Once you begin to speak their language, they’re more apt to bring you into these conversations, rather than seeing you as a corporate HR person who isn’t really commercial. And commercial is the word I use often to describe myself, because I’m not about building policies or rules. I think rules can take away choices. I want to be the office of “how,” not the office of “no.”
That final sentence really struck me. To drive creativity and innovation in organizations, we need to create a workplace environment of "how" rather than "no". How can we make this work? How might overcome those challenges? How could we address the shortcomings of this proposal, without discarding the idea altogether? Before we simply poke holes and reject flawed ideas, we need to ask "how" we might be able to improve those ideas or build upon them. We also can't simply expect to govern behavior by rules and procedures. We have to give some autonomy to our people and trust them to make good decisions, given appropriate guidelines, training, and mentorship.