When leaders need innovative ideas to grow their company, they often turn to their direct reports for guidance. But this group, by design, represents the current operating units and functions, which often have a status quo to defend.
So when you need creative thinking, try forming a leadership circle, a diverse, ad hoc team of 15–18 people from throughout the company who can work together for about six months.
The circle should focus on the future, not the past, and healthy debate should be encouraged. Within the circle, each member should hold equal status and should not feel that he or she is being asked to represent the point of view of accounting, sales, shipping, or whatever their home department is.
Most important, whatever ideas come out of a leadership circle should be handled in the same way they were generated: They should be rigorously and systematically discussed, debated, and explored.