To achieve that goal, organizations must have innovative employees who have the time to engage others and generate ideas. Yet despite changes in the way we all interact, the working sphere and management beliefs have stayed mostly the same. This staid environment is keeping a lid on company creativity. Luckily, there are some easy things that can be done to unleash creative thinking and make innovation more dynamic.
1. Diversify your strategy team. I think it is the third commandment of leadership that states “only direct reports should make up your management team.” It is a commandment that many leaders stick to religiously. Yet it honestly doesn’t make a great deal of sense. Not every person that directly reports to you will be a creative genius. That doesn’t mean they don’t have good things to offer. It just means that coming up with innovative ideas probably isn’t one of them. But I guarantee you there are people among your team who are idea machines. So look beyond your current inner circle, find the talent, and have them join your management team.
2. Create an idea space. My last great idea came while waiting in the dentist’s office….said no one ever! And it is pretty understandable why. The blandness of a waiting room is hardly inspiring. Yet most company meeting rooms shockingly resemble a dentist’s waiting room (copies of old People magazines excluded). So build a space with a creative-energy-inducing style. Caffeine generally amps people, so put in a coffee machine. Install a whiteboard so people can jot down ideas. Get rid of the desk chairs and put in a comfortable sofa. Change the lighting, and call the room what it is—an idea space.
3. Allow people time to think. Spending the money to create an idea space won’t mean much if your people don’t actually have the time to utilize it. If you follow the “everybody must be busy” school of management, then it’s likely the room will get used more like a drop-in coffee station than an idea space. It’s important, therefore, that scheduling time to use the idea space becomes and remains a priority for you and your team.
4. Nurture the ideas. People will never try to generate ideas if they are constantly worried they will be mocked for them. Or worse, they feel like their ideas are always being ignored. So remember, what might seem like a bad idea at the beginning can actually morph into a really good one. Rather than cut off every idea, open it up to a group discussion and see where it might lead. You might end up being very pleasantly surprised.
5. Make your leadership vision and goals a team effort. Achieving some stupendous strategic goal might be a career target for you, but if it isn’t for everyone else, then you probably are not going to get a lot of creative help and team engagement toward achieving it. So make your leadership vision and goals a team effort. And if you don’t have a vision or goal at the moment, you now have the perfect idea space in which to develop and work on one. With your team, naturally.