Innovation isn’t a gift or a talent that some people have and others don’t. It is a skill-set and process for turning an idea into reality that creates value. The process has distinct developmental stages, each requiring different skills that different people in your team can bring or learn.

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Brian Tracy states that,

‘Good leadership is the ability to get extraordinary achievements from ordinary people.’

Knowing that collaboration is vital to innovation, how do you keep teams motivated with a multitude of personalities, ambitions and motivators?

At G2 Innovation, we work with teams and team leaders to drive innovation in companies and this also means helping them boost and sustain motivation. So how do our workshop facilitators do this?

Here are some insights from innovation workshop facilitators Andrew Jones and Kate O’Halloran.

What is typical behaviour of someone lacking motivation?

The subtle signs are when people procrastinate on projects and deliverables, display a negative attitude or appear disengaged and unenthusiastic. The more obvious signs are long lunches, tardiness and unexplained absences.

Why is team motivation one of the biggest barriers to innovation?

We often talk about the importance of creating a culture of innovation, where entire workforces feel inspired to trial and test ideas. Team motivation is central to this. Unmotivated and disengaged people struggle to generate ideas, withdraw from collaboration and have difficulty adapting to change.

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Attitudes like ‘we tried that, and it didn’t work’ or ‘that would never work at our company’ will soon stifle the most creative minds at the table, especially if those negative voices are at the top. The best leaders hire people who are better than they are with the understanding that these people will uncover ideas they haven’t thought of yet.

When people feel free to raise ideas, collaborate on projects and make errors along the way, you have yourself a culture of innovation.

What can leaders do to motivate staff?

Understand the two forms of motivation. There are extrinsic motivators such as pay increases, recognition, time off or bonuses and intrinsic motivators such as a personal desire to overcome challenges, variation of work, producing high-quality work, working with valued team members on exciting projects and job satisfaction. Whilst both motivators are important, companies with an innovative culture cultivate intrinsic motivators far more successfully.

By taking a human-centred approach and looking at issues from employee experience, you can understand their pains and gains and identify whether they are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated.

A powerful way of heightening intrinsic motivators is to define and align your company’s core purpose, a clear statement that is known throughout the organisation and resonates through every employee. This purpose underlies every decision team members make and ensures that choices align with it. (Further reading: The Power of Purpose).

What tools and techniques can re-engage disengaged staff

Taking that first step of investing in training and embedding new skills is one of the best things a company can do to achieve greater collaboration and performance. Investing in team skills and individual development demonstrates value and respect, which heightens motivation.

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When supporting companies to develop innovation leadership and ownership, we research the group dynamics and culture to identify any issues with motivation. We have a range of techniques and tools in our innovation tool kit designed to keep teams motivated, generate ideas, foster collaboration, stimulate discussion, help teams with change and avoid the ‘here we go again’ mentality.

One of the most common mistakes companies make is to always generate ideas aloud – such as brainstorming by calling ideas out. This encourages groupthink and for the loudest or most senior person in the room to have the most impact. At the end of these sessions, group motivation can appear to be enhanced from lots of noise and activity, but the long-term reality is often very different.

How do you manage toxic situations where the team is motivated to make change except for one dominant personality? 

Disruptive and negative behaviours in individuals often disguise other feelings such as a lack of confidence, uncertainty about their relevance in the team, feeling overwhelmed, threatened or personal issues. As Design Thinking practitioners we use empathy to try and understand what the person is experiencing, to see things from their perspective. With an understanding of what they are feeling, we gain insights into how to best engage them.

What is a daily practice each person could do every day to ensure sustained motivation and therefore innovation in their workplace?

Once you’ve learned new skills, practise them each and every day to build them into daily processes. Otherwise motivation to create and sustain change will wean, as will people’s memory of the training investment you made in them.  

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When people are motivated they are adaptable to change, enjoy their work, perform at their peak and inspire those around them to do the same. 

When leaders are able to keep teams motivated and inspired, the organisation gains a reputation as a good employer, absenteeism is reduced, and performance and hence profits improve.

Need help motivating your team? Talk to Andrew or Kate about Innovating People and Culture.

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