How to promote innovation in your company
Today, teamwork is imperative to any company’s success. In the arms race that is innovation, competing in the market requires teams that ideate faster and handle increasingly complex data. Teams now have unprecedented audience data, powerful creative tools, and machine learning algorithms to drive innovation. These new insights and tools are disrupting innovation itself. That is, it’s not just that products and services are getting more complicated; the process of innovation itself is becoming more complex.
And building a high-performing team takes leaders who can meet these intricate demands. Leaders must ensure projects are on time and meet their budgets while managing a diverse set of personalities, attitudes, and skill levels. They must adjust to a changing workplace, facilitate collaboration between in-office and remote employees, and maintain team focus amidst a cacophony of distractions. It’s a tall order but doable if you adopt the right leadership habits. Here are five habits that leaders use to help their teams achieve new heights of creativity.
- They Leverage Outside Resources to Inspire
There are plenty of in-house resources you can use to inspire your team (recognition and donuts are always welcome). But effective leaders also include outside resources into their inspirational bag-of-tricks. To jumpstart the process, look within your own community and leverage local resources. Invite a local business owner or thought leader to spark interest and offer unique perspectives on your market. Look for local escape rooms to practice teamwork and problem-solving. Or schedule a “wine and painting” session to spark collective creativity.
If your local community is limited, send an email with a list of inspiring podcasts and blogs to your team. Or set aside an hour to stream a documentary on science and tech then discuss it. Including outside resources of any kind broadens your motivational strategy and diversifies your team’s experience. It also teaches them that there is an abundance of opportunities outside the office to motivate themselves.
- They Build Balanced Teams
Effective leaders know how to hire for and build balanced teams to maximize innovation. They begin by hiring individuals with the characteristics of successful innovators — those who are persistent, proactive, opportunistic, and formally educated. But assembling innovation takes more than throwing PhDs in a room and expecting magic. First, you need folks who understand the realities of the market and the limitations of your company. Then balance that group with entrepreneurs who innovate and push against those limitations. Too many conservative opinions and the work will stagnate. Too many out-of-the-boxers and ideas become impractical. But the push-and-pull of a balanced team results in innovative approaches with workable ends.
- They Value Resource Scarcity
Leaders who motivate their team understand that “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Having a limited set of tools inspires your team to get more from them. Fewer resources also help increase focus. Too many choices pushes teams into the “weeds” or results in analysis paralysis.
Resource scarcity also lowers financial investment and the oversight that comes with it. With less to answer for from corporate offices, your team gains autonomy. Plus, big budgets lead to big expectations and high pressure. Both stifle creative thinking and shift intellectual efforts from innovating new designs to solving budget problems. Resource scarcity also means keeping your team small. Too many members can complicate decision-making. This can lead to social loafing and lower productivity.
- They Set Clear Goals for The Team
Managers who inspire creativity are habitual goal setters. They avoid vague generalizations like “Do a great job!” or “Let’s work hard.” when motivating. Instead, effective leaders start projects with clearly defined objectives, timelines, and tasks for the team and its members — then follow up with evaluations and adjustments along the way. Having guardrails raises the team’s focus and drives innovation. Leading a team with the attitude that “there are no rules” leaves them rudderless. Too much freedom omits the soil upon which fruitful creativity grows. An inspiring leader lays that groundwork at the start.
One critical component of setting clear goals is to match individual team members with tasks that are both difficult and specific to their skill set. Commitment and motivation increase when individuals feel task-specific confidence (i.e., high efficacy). And with strong commitment and feedback, team members are more likely to succeed.
- They Trust More Than Control
Ineffective leaders micromanage their team. They keep meticulous account of who’s doing what and when they’re doing it. But managers who innovate exhibit strong leadership characteristics like trust, openness, and courage. They build a safe workspace, encourage and embrace failure, and reward new ideas. These traits are the antidote to the biggest killer of innovation: fear. When a team feels anxious and worried, their attention turns inwards, often to self-preservation. Risk aversion sets in, with workers weighing the pros and cons of producing something to critique. In this dysfunctional environment, members feel they can’t fail if they don’t try.
To be a leader that fosters creativity and innovation, you need to model the creative process yourself. Use these five habits as an opportunity to exhibit innovation. Brainstorm unique solutions for assembling the right mix of people. Find ways to wrangle much-needed resources from a tight budget. Set clear goals using a team building exercise. In short, don’t just rely on your leadership style to foster innovation. Use your own process to exhibit it.
Written by: Hilary Thompson
Hilary is a freelance writer, small business owner, and travel junkie. With a background in content strategy, journalism, and business management, she loves to explore solutions for success, in all areas: health, business, parenting, life.