All industries look to innovate in order to ensure they can respond quickly enough to customer demands. Problems often arise if there’s a lack of speed in innovation. And some leaders are concerned that few individuals within the organisation will take the initiative or are incapable of looking for creative solutions.
So, how can we encourage creativity and innovation?
Making it safe
Leaders and employees can feel insecure about getting involved in innovation for a number of reasons. It can be because of historical circumstances they’ve found themselves in eg. when taking risks previously, they’ve ended up making mistakes or even losing their job. The norm in some organisations can be deemed too risky, where people could be judged negatively, see a drop in status, threat to promotion or their job.
If you’re asking people to be creative, you need to ensure that they feel safe enough to do so. Psychological safety, where an “employee’s sense of being able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences to self-image, status or career”, enables effective brainstorming, idea sharing and creativity at its best. To feel psychologically safe they are likely to need honesty, trust, a sense of belonging, openness, and the ability to agree/disagree without it becoming a personal issue.
A calm, relaxed and secure mind has been proven to be more successful at generating and exploring multiple possibilities to issues, discover new insights and achieve creative ways of putting solutions in to practice. An organisation that encourages this will also have employees who have quality relationships with their colleagues and a greater feeling of job satisfaction.
Currently, when you’re asked to brainstorm some new ideas, who do you invite to the meeting? Are you inviting like-minded individuals, those you may have worked with before or you seem to get along with?
This may seem like a good idea, but you could be missing out on some vital thought processes and opinions. For instance, you could be only inviting those in your inner circle (also known as in-group) – those you personally trust, respect and who you believe are good at their job. It’s your personal opinion, but that doesn’t actually mean that they can’t be trusted, respected or aren’t good at their job. Known as a cognitive bias (an unconscious “rule of thumb” we use to help us short-cut our decision making process), there is a risk that this could very easily reduce the creative ability of your group.
If we want to generate new and unusual solutions for problems, we want to move away from the known and recognised, and encourage flexibility and novelty of ideas. Making the most of a diverse group of contributors, who will challenge the “norm”, will help towards this.
Are you sourcing your ideas from the entire organisation and, just as importantly, your customers? Customer satisfaction goes hand in hand with improved business performance. Those at the forefront of that interaction are knowledgeable about what works and what wouldn’t, and often know more about what a customer is looking for.
When the most senior people are making all the decisions, it can be incredibly destructive to empowerment and creativity throughout the organisation. Employees often feel that the most important decisions are made by those who are out of touch with what the customer needs and how it can be achieved effectively. When senior executives are seen to be actively encouraging their participation, however, this is extremely powerful.
Additionally, innovation can often be linked to unrealistic financial goals, making it difficult to test, learn and improve ideas quickly. What can be done to be able to speed up the turnaround times and allow a culture of creativity to flourish? Are there opportunities to spend more time on the creative process and less on the number of levels of sign-off?
The most effective leaders of creativity and innovation are those that are able to understand, appreciate and incorporate the behaviours, motivations and personalities of all those involved in the process. They understand how to maximise the individuals’ strengths and abilities, and how to reduce any potential negative effects from conflict, stress and working styles. These leaders are skilled at:
- Developing self-awareness and understanding the attitudes and behaviours of all of their team members.
- Understanding collective motivational needs and those specific to each individual
- Building trust and encouraging a safe and open environment to share ideas.
- Actively listening and encouraging team listening of everyone’s contribution
- Appreciating that debate is healthy, but conflict needs to be managed.
- Providing effective feedback
- Helping everyone learn from mistakes and the successes.
- Assessing effectiveness against objections
- Celebrating success.
With this combined approach, creativity and innovation can be more effective and provide much needed support for your organisation’s success.
To find out how executive coaching could help you improve your internal creative and innovation process, and develop the leadership skills to drive this forward, please get in contact.
Or download “Expand The Jigsaw”, a free report for more information on improving creativity and innovation.