Five things good leaders do to foster innovation

by | Oct 31, 2019

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If someone asked one of your employees whether your business really does foster innovation, would their answer be the same as yours?

Sometimes leaders have a view of the culture of their organization which isn’t replicated by all of the people within. It might not be that anybody is deliberately creating bad vibes, or breeding an uncomfortable working culture. Often, making sure that the atmosphere in the workplace is ripe for creativity can be overlooked in the face of more urgent pressures such as increasing the bottom line, or reacting to the latest challenge.

Has your leadership team dedicated any time to thinking about how to foster innovation or is it just assumed that it happens?

If you are starting to wonder whether you have indeed given this enough attention, you may also be wondering what you might need to do in order to create a truly innovative environment.

There are five things that every organization can do to foster innovation:

Open the lines of communication

Engaged employees are more likely to be innovative because in order to be inspired to have new ideas, you need to believe and feel a part of the organisation’s mission.

So, in order to foster innovation, you may need to take a look at your internal communications strategy. Are people clear and on board with the purpose and direction of the business? Does your company promote two-way open dialogue or is there more you could do to get the conversation going…

Un-schedule creativity

Whilst its often the norm, it won’t always get the best out of your team if creativity is only encouraged in sessions which have been specially set aside. Some people thrive in ‘brainstorming’ type meetings, but others find the pressure to perform all too much, and this stifles their creative sparks.

Instead, try to make time for new ideas within the usual working day. In meetings lead by example, asking questions like, ‘are there other ways we could be doing this?’ or encouraging teams to ‘run through different scenarios’. Welcome ideas from the whole team, and praise people for trying, especially when their idea might not be successful.

Also give some attention to whether new ideas are always welcomed, or whether you only scrabble around for solutions when things aren’t going well, and ignore valuable contributions when the going is good.

Encourage failure  

You might be wondering why we are advocating encouraging failurein your teams. It might seem counter-intuitive to want people to make mistakes, but lots of great inventions were made by mistake. Inventions from the humble crisp to the life-saving discovery of penicillin came about when someone was trying to solve a different problem.

It’s important to be able to experiment with different methods and possibilities in order to find the solution to any problem. And the more creativity can be unleashed without fear or shame being attached to the idea of making a mistake, the more likely you are to get your organization into the space where true innovation occurs.

Build an atmosphere of trust

Banishing fear and shame brings us nicely along to our next recommendation – work to build trust within your teams.

When your teams really trust each other, they feel safe to experiment, safe in the knowledge that no matter how wacky their proposal they won’t lose face in front of their colleagues. We work with lots of organisations using a vulnerability approach to build real empathetic connections between team members which help foster innovation.

Open the door to the flow of ideas

If you’re even reading this you are obviously interested in how to foster innovation, but have you asked yourself how receptive your senior team is to hearing ideas? Are there team members that might be threatened by new ideas and therefore discourage them?

It might be worth thinking about how you champion ideas within your teams. You should make sure that you are providing opportunities for different personalities to contribute. Some people are happy to contribute in front of a group, while others might have the creative juices flowing but might lack the confidence to speak out. Do you have a proper process or time set aside for really thinking about new ideas, and evaluating their viability.

New ideas won’t necessarily just work automatically –  even if they are really good. It is worth putting a system in place to take ideas from conception to implementation, and even appointing an ‘ideas champion’ to track their progress, and make sure they don’t just disappear into the ether.

Connectivity can help you open up your leadership style, build engagement in your teams and create an environment that truly fosters innovation. Just get in touch to find out how.