Often teams are formed to improve a business process which requires innovation. So how do you create an environment conducive to new ideas being brought to the table? Part of the solution is to get good ideas from the team and the other part of it is to nurture innovators.
As a team leader it is critical for you to be on the lookout for the innovators on your team. Some people have a natural tendency to look for new solutions; they will challenge the status quo in the quest for improvement. Here are some things you can do to help keep these team members engaged and innovating:
- Give them room to work. Innovators often want to be given a direction and then have the boss get out of their way. Let them go and see where it takes the team. Regular checks can make sure resources are being used appropriately, but they need room to move.
- Remove obstacles. Often innovators get discouraged because there are so many roadblocks to change. As the team leader your job is to help clear their path.
- Provide resources. When your innovators have ideas or things to be tested or prototyped, provide them with the resources to prove out their ideas. These resources have to be done within the limitations of the business, and yet it is critical to allow innovators to demonstrate their ideas.
- Encourage new thinking. As a team leader you are responsible for getting ideas from the team and being open to new ways and at times radical thinking is critical to nurturing innovation.
Businesses grow and prosper when they are innovating and finding new ways of doing business. To keep that growth happening all organizations need innovators, those people who are willing to step up and say “What if?” Encourage this behavior on your team and you will be nurturing the future of your company.
How do you nurture innovation within your organization?
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Does your team generate great ideas? Are you open to all ideas? Do you encourage even seemingly off the wall thoughts? Does each of your team members feel they will be heard? Do they all come up with unique ideas or concepts?
If you can answer yes to all of these your team is rolling along well and is open to any and all input. Great! Unfortunately most teams aren’t operating in this well. There are several reasons this may be the case.
- Lacking Diversity – If the team all has the same job functions/ background you may not get unique ideas. When everyone does the same thing or has the same background they tend to see things the same way.
Solution – Bring in people who are outside of the area of expertise of the team. Open it up to internal or external customers and suppliers, or people from other disciplines within the organization. This will bring fresh eyes to the topic and can generate new and exciting solutions.
- Group Think – At times established and successful teams can get in a rut. One person may have come up with the last great idea and everyone looks to them for the next one. They can develop a habit that repeats what worked last time and close the door on new ideas.
Solution – Be intentional when it comes to brainstorming solutions. Have a process that is set up to generate ideas and to dig deeper for even more. Change up the actual method used to generate ideas to keep it fresh each time. Doing something unexpected will get people thinking and open the door to new solutions.
- Leader Isn’t Listening – As a team leader it is important to listen to all ideas, particularly ones that are different than you own. If you shutdown input by saying “that will never work” or “that’s impossible” you tell the team that their ideas aren’t important to you and very quickly their creativity will be put on hold.
Solution – As the leader be aware of how you respond to ideas. Be open at all times. If you think it’s crazy ask the person or team to explore it further, there may be a nugget of wisdom hiding in there that can create new and better solutions. If your team leader is closed off to ideas work on finding ways to take their ideas and expand them in new directions that capture your thoughts. Building from their ideas will help them think you are brilliant!
Open the door to creativity within your team by encouraging new ideas and solutions. Look for the unexpected, person or idea, to spark the team’s innovative spirit. The more creative the team is with generating ideas the more innovative the solutions will be. Good luck!
How do you inspire the team to generate great ideas?