Fat Lip Service

I recently had a disarmingly honest conversation with a senior leader in a large organisation in Singapore. This person said, “When it comes to innovation, we are constantly giving ourselves a fat lip!”  If you are unfamiliar with this term, it’s not a cosmetic surgery enhancement, it’s a reference to getting a punch in the mouth. The result being a swollen, painful and fat lip.

Before this somewhat harsh observation, our discussion had circled around the challenge and the frustration of trying to create a culture of innovation in their company. Across the Asia Pacific region, they have cubicles full of technically excellent people, all good at their work but when it came to innovative thinking, lip service was about as far as they got. “Yes, absolutely. Good strategy. Makes perfect sense. I am a big fan of innovation. We must do that. Now, back to work.”

This resonated with me easily. In my previous corporate life and even more so working as a professional facilitator for over a decade I’ve witnessed similar reactions and execution shortfalls from leaders who are fighting to grow their business in Asia. Sadly, Fat Lip Service (FLS) is not just innovation-specific. FLS applies to many important growth and business survival initiatives that battle to achieve the required traction. We can include collaboration, global-to-regional strategic alignment, practicing company values, transformation programs etc.

Starting is quite easy. The challenge is maintenance. Here are some ideas how;

  • Create the right physical and mental environments to enable suppportive conversations and thinking to occur.
  • Agree the rules of working collaboratively. Each person understands the optimal way to contribute and to get the best from each other.
  • Decide near term follow up sessions to maintain momentum.
  • Make a big task achievable through a series of shorter rounds; actionable meetings from which people are accountable to each other.
  • Facilitate well. Design, prepare and execute meetings in service of your purpose and outcomes.

“Yes, absolutely. Good strategy. Makes perfect sense. I know about these already. We must do that. Now, back to work.” Does that ring a bell? Easy to say but let’s face it, not so easy to do.

We have expertise in supporting managers and leaders in all levels of collaboration to accelerate work done in groups to deliver maximum impact.

If you know or suspect you’re group is suffering from FLS, open a ‘how to’ conversation as a sensible and zero-risk first step.   All the most successful fighters need a good sparring partner.

Please post a comment… What is your experience of FLS?

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