MDs often tell us that the reason their business is stagnating is because no-one in their team knows how to be innovative. In response we generally ask them:
Can your team ask questions? Listen? Follow a process? Work together?
9 times out of 10, the answer to each question is “Yes.”
The problem is that many people succumb to a belief that they are not innovative and never will be, when in fact they just need to know how to use their existing skills differently. We call this Innovation Confidence.
Here’s 5 tips to get your team’s Innovation Confidence up and running.
We all know how to ask questions, but it’s about asking the right questions. Forget questions like “What would be really creative/different/exciting?” Such direct questions tend to shut down rather than open up new channels of thought. Instead, start with researchable questions like “What do my customers really need?” “What problem do they want solved?” “What are they also buying?” Once these are answered, questions like “how can this be translated into a new product or service?” will naturally follow.
Listen and Observe.
Asking questions is one thing, but really listening is another. We all listen at a superficial level, but Innovation happens when we understand the overt and covert. If people had been directly asked what improvements should be made to an early model mobile phone, its unlikely they would have articulated that they wanted to use it to read their emails and take photos. They probably would have focussed on size of screen, colour and ease of use. However by observing what people used on a day to day basis ( diary, phone, PC, camera, internet) then identifying and understanding the unmet need, the smart phone was born.
Innovation often answers the unarticulated. So listen and look for what isn’t being said as well as what is.
Communicate your strategy at the outset
It’s hugely important to be transparent with your team and teach them what is wanted and why. If the team doesn't know where the goal posts are then their ideas will never align with the desired outcomes.
In fact, ideas that are not grounded in strategy usually end up as incremental Innovation, because any idea beyond an improvement to what already exists, will be perceived as too outlandish, risky, expensive and therefore remain behind closed lips. Unfortunately, just implementing incremental Innovation is only as good as levelling the playing field. To lead the field, you also need to have an element of disruption.
Follow a process.
You’ve got a strategy, but where to now? Many choose to jump into a brainstorm session expecting greatness to naturally evolve from there, but instead find the original excitement peters out because there’s no clear path for turning the idea into a commercial reality. Following a cohesive Innovation process that starts at the question phase and continues on through to commercialisation not only gives your team autonomy, it will reduce the energy and time previously spent in the planning and selection phases, which allows more time for development and execution.
Innovation works best when the Company’s culture allows for collaboration. Each individual department may work well together, but can they work effectively outside of their own department? It is well known that a range of perspectives enhances the development and implementation of Innovation, but what is sometimes lacking in organisations is inter-departmental respect and understanding. For example, R&D and Marketing are traditionally at loggerheads with one another due to their competing priorities. Physically relocating employees within another department for a day, a week or even longer is a great tactic for encouraging respect, empathy and collaboration across your business.
Creating an environment where your team respect each-others’ roles and viewpoints will increase understanding, which in turn can drive value to your business.
Looking to build up your own or your team's Innovation Confidence? You can find more tips in our blog 'How to Find 15 Minutes a Day to Innovate.'
Want some more hands-on help with your Innovation Activities? Our Innovation Training Programs can be tailored to meet your individual needs from Innovation beginners to seasoned Innovators looking to build on existing skills. Please Click here for more Information.