A seminal memory of childhood for many Americans of my age was the arrival of the magazine Highlights for Children every month. The magazine was chock full of goodness, but my favorite part was the Goofus & Gallant cartoon. For those who didn't have the pleasure of reading the magazine, the cartoon taught life lessons through contrasts. Not surprisingly, Gallant was always polite, did his chores, and thought things through, whereas Goofus wasn't polite, didn't do his chores, and definitely didn't think things through.
It all came rushing back to me the other week when I watched an executive reviewing one of his company's high-potential innovation efforts. This executive was whip smart, and had a history of beating his numbers. The team was a bit nervous before the presentation because their research suggested that they needed to seriously rethink the strategy — the same strategy that was originally developed by the very executive they were presenting to. Their nervousness turned out to be justified when the executive challenged the team's conclusions. He didn't do so maliciously, but it was clear that he wanted the team to confirm his belief rather than challenge it.
That's not what Gallant would do when encountering a surprising research finding, I told the executive in a one-on-one debrief after the meeting. Rather than saying the equivalent of "Why didn't you tell me what I already told you I knew?" Gallant would say: "I didn't expect this. Let's talk about what it means."
That discussion led to my team brainstorming other common Goofuses & Gallants in innovation management. Here are five of our favorites: