Why is it some individuals are able to come up with new and innovative ideas, while others are unable to think of even one idea to improve work practices?
Every company wants to be innovative. Fuelled by this desire, many business leaders spend considerable time and money on learning & development initiatives for their employees. By retraining their people to think creatively, innovation must surely follow, right? If we empower everyone with the tools and techniques needed to develop creative solutions, surely the objective of innovation will be met.
Well, that is true to a large extent. People matter. People play the biggest role in the quest for innovation. People develop ideas, create plans, make decisions, and execute strategies.
Developing people is indeed necessary for innovation, but the fact is this alone is not sufficient
In placing all their focus on training people to have the right skill set, organisations pay no attention to actually building an environment where that skill set can thrive. Leaders fail to understand that creative thinking tools and techniques simply do not work in the traditional management and workplace setting. Even if individuals and teams did create innovative solutions, their creative ideas will get killed by the bureaucracy and standard operating procedures that still permeate the company. Not enough is being done by leaders and employees at all levels to develop an innovative environment within which creative ideas can actually thrive.
Ideas, in their nascence, are like embers in a fire. If not nurtured and given a chance to kindle they will eventually get extinguished. But, if we add fuel to sustain it, they can develop into something much larger. To that end, here are some tips on how every individual, leader, and team can play a part in helping to build and sustain an innovative environment that allows creative ideas to spread like wildfire.
Encourage everyone to keep an open mind
This is the first step you need to take to make way for new ideas. Colleagues, leaders and teams collectively should be encouraged to adopt this mindset. No one should be showing signs of rigidity in their attitude.
Do not micro-manage
Any attempt to keep track of everything in the workplace hinders innovation. Provide greater autonomy to employees, so that they are free to think out of the box.
Keep your S.O.P. Short and Sweet
The presence of large, comprehensive Standard Operating Procedures (S.O.P.) is the surest way to kill any and every new idea.
Encourage people to ask “What if….”
When teams are seeking creative solutions to a problem, encourage them to ask: “What if…?”. This is the best way to challenge age-old assumptions – the greatest barrier to innovation.
Insist on more than one solution
Let employees know that it is in the interest of the group and the business organisation to seek more than one solution to every problem. You can start with a minimum of three solutions and gradually increase it to 4, 5, 6 and 7.
Make the group diverse
Ensure team members are from diverse backgrounds in terms of age, gender, experience, culture, race and area of specialisation. Involving people from other units and departments is one of the best ways to seek new and innovative ideas.
Make Idea Generating sessions fun
Start the session with some unexpected activities- distribute fruits, candies or chocolates. A pleasant positive emotional experience will bring out new ideas.
Conduct regular Brainstorming sessions
Make sure the facilitator is well trained in the art of conducting an effective brainstorming session.
Ask children for new ideas
What better way than tap into the great potential of your employee’s children.
The above tips work well within your own team and department. But steps also need to be taken within the entire organisation in order to make room for new ideas. Business leaders need to eliminate old and useless practices that currently occupy the room, by reviewing current policies and practices and being prepared to get rid of them if they do not line up with their innovation objectives. Until you create adequate space, you will not be able to bring in new ideas.
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