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3 Steps to Encourage a Culture of Innovation With Your Team

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3 Steps to Encourage a Culture of Innovation With Your Team

We live in an era of constant change.

Business cycles are fast. The speed with which new ideas, innovation and new competition come to market is staggering. You either innovate or get beat by those who do.

Many established organizations struggle to innovate – and in some cases so do relatively young organizations. 

Stepping back, it’s easy to see why companies need to have systems and processes to achieve their goals – so boxes are created.

Boxes on an org chart that outline who is responsible for what. All leading to the achievement of the goal. And the machine of “getting things done efficiently to achieve the goal” is created – but innovation is lost, a casualty of efficiency.

Therein lies the danger.

The efficient organization is predictable but often mediocre. Lacking the spark of innovation that once guided it forward.

But saying it and doing it are two different things.

We all know organizations that talk a good game about innovation, claiming it’s part of their core values, claiming that they were founded on innovation (aren’t they all?). And when an innovative idea lands in their lap – they don’t even recognize it.

Innovation doesn’t just come from the R&D team, Chief Innovation Officer or group that has been anointed as “the ones who do innovation.” True innovation is organic, it happens at the grass root level, among creative people who have deep insight into the business and how it works – not because it’s stamped with a title.

Employees have long been rewarded for being monotonous box fillers, not creative thinkers

Today’s employees have been indoctrinated into a business culture that taught them they are not valued for creativity, they are valued for doing the status quo.

And the results? Too many apathetic, or worse yet, disengaged employees and teams.

If this is the case for you, don’t despair – you’re not alone. You are in a difficult, and very common position. You, after all, are probably in one of those boxes yourself.

How to create a culture of innovation on your team

Not ones to dwell on problems, we’re going to get you busy working on solutions – and you don’t need to wait for the CEO to get this memo.

That’s because your team can begin innovating right now. And you can create a culture of innovation for your group by using your influence and authority – you can lead your team to become innovators.

Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you blow up the org chart and start over, quite the opposite.

Here are the three steps you can take to foster an innovative and entrepreneurial mindset with your team.

  1. Seed the ember
  2. Fan the flame
  3. Feed the fire
     

Clearly this will need some explaining…

Seed the Ember

Back to our box analogy, you need to seed each box (including your own) with a tiny ember. This ember represents the permission you are going to give to each and every one of your staff to initiate.

So what is initiating? It’s simply starting something.

In order to initiate your team needs you to do the following.

  • Give them your explicit permission to think creatively.
  • Create a safe and supportive environment in which they can share their creative ideas.
  • Provide the green light to start.
     

Fan the Flame

Keep in mind this process of initiating and innovating is MESSY. It’s not an orderly straight line. For every success there will be three failures. But the failures will teach valuable lessons and will lead you and your team closer to the next breakthrough.

Make sure your team understands this, and be their cheerleader throughout the messiness – especially while you are establishing this new mindset.

The change in mindset – to become innovators – will only happen if your employees can shake off the mentality of being “compliant employees” and exchange it for the mindset of being “creative employees.”

Keep in mind that initiating doesn’t come naturally for everyone. And for those who do think creatively, they have probably been trained not to speak up. Some will not want to take the risk of being wrong, and shy away from the opportunity because they are too fearful.

Create a process for bringing ideas forward, making it easy for your employees to get the ideas out of their head. Take each idea seriously to encourage employees to keep making suggestions.

Use the four-steps below to guide the process.

  1. Define the problem
  2. Evaluate constraints
  3. Decide whether or not to proceed
  4. Implement
     

It’s your support that will help to fan the flame of initiating and innovation. In order for the flame to burn bright you will need to fan it.

Feed the Fire

As you experience success it’s important to celebrate and keep your team focused on the objective which is not about certain people getting “credit” for launching the innovative idea.  The real win is actually the innovative idea coming to life.

Your job is to keep your team’s eye on the prize, feeding their fire to think creatively, initiate and innovate.    

If you can do this you will make an impact on your organization but you will do something even more important – solving one of the most vexing problems in business today. You will give your employees opportunities to use more of their skills and provide meaningful opportunities to make positive contributions to your organization’s success.

This will lead to greater employee engagement and satisfaction. And if you can do this – you will lead better.   

In order to help you get the process started we’ve created a list of questions you can use to help your team get their creative ideas flowing. CLICK HERE for the Team Innovation Kickstarter.

Cheers!

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