Innovation: Seeing the Parts or the Whole?

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Break it down. See how the parts work. Eat an elephant one bite at a time.

This is a great way to solve problems. Often the solutions are in the details.

We talked last week about how Change Initiatives Abhor a Vacuum. We were discussing change communication in that article. The concept of nature abhorring a vacuum applies to overall innovation and problem solving as well.

Any problem or opportunity exists in a larger context. Looking at the details exclusively ignores the context surrounding the problem. You can’t explain why it is dark at night if you don’t take a view with a bigger picture.

Should we think in terms of ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’, a more holistic approach? Or should we reduce a problem down to its individual components?


As a leader we must identify the approach in play and provide the perspective of the other side. We provide that balance.

For example, when the team is trying to figure out a downward decline in sales and are focused on the merchandising in the store, as a leader you would suggest analyzing competitors and the environment around the store.

If the team is focusing on the new store down the block you might suggest we look at our customer service and pricing.

Our entrenched desire to do something causes us to take action in usually the most expedient way. That action often operates from only one perspective. The solution may be obvious if that perspective is shifted.

You may even find it beneficial to have two teams tackling the problem from the two different perspectives and then analyzing the overlap.

In Personal Brilliance we warn about too tight of a focus. Bring this perspective to your organization.

The leader of innovation plays the role of the shifter of perspective.

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Jim Canterucci

I don't know everything. But I want to. The focus of our firm, Transition Management Advisors, is to develop leadership capabilities to create a championship culture, generate innovation, and successfully lead the resulting changes.

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On November 10, 2015
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