There has never been a more crucial time for companies to innovate; external uncertainties are more prevalent than ever before.
The pressure of political, environmental, social and technological change is unprecedented, the only way that businesses will survive and thrive is through innovation.
Where does the responsibility for innovation lie in your organisation? Do you work with a team of responsible, confident, decision makers continually generating innovative ideas for improvement with a successful track record of implementation?
Maybe you’re frustrated to be the only one with any new ideas in your organisation? Or you regularly see new ideas generated only to witness them crash and burn, or worse, fizzle out to nothing?
In the words of Woodrow Wilson: “I not only use all the brains that I have, but all I can borrow.”
So how do you get your team on board?
I’d spent three years building the trust in my organisation, going to great lengths to ensure that my team was given the support they needed so that the business could thrive in my absence.
During the time of a large business expansion, I thought that I was managing my stress levels until I experienced a trust-breaking moment - my yelling expletive directed at staff on the phone reverberated around the whole premises, so I knew that in that moment I had lost all mutual trust.
I had very loudly demonstrated what would happen when staff got it badly wrong, we were back to square one; suspicion and fear ruled.
During our next team meeting, I put my pride to one side and we discussed the issue. I didn’t like a lot of the honesty that I heard but I was delighted to learn that it hadn’t set us back as far as I had feared.
We all came to appreciate that we had built a ‘Trust Bank’ over the years and whilst my tantrum had created a severe dent in the balance, we still had reserves to build upon.
So how do you build a trust bank within your organisation?
The person doing the job has the information and we all know that information is power. Is anyone reluctant to share information? Find out why and set up formal channels to keep the flow moving to where it needs to be.
Is everyone allowed to have a good idea or do you secretly resent or worry that you should have all the answers? What happens when someone speaks up? What support do you give them?
Do you trust your people?
Is the thought of trusting your team to do a great job in your absence a given or does it fill you with dread? What assurances do you need in order to trust them and just how reasonable are they?
Micro-managing is tempting, after all you have to suffer the consequences if it all goes wrong, but ask yourself do you really have all the answers and always know what’s best?
Do they trust you?
Are you consistent in your behaviour? Can your staff rely on you to deliver on your word? Are confidences kept? How authentic are you?
If you’re keeping information to yourself ask what are you afraid of? When the pressure is on we get threatened and resort to certain behaviours in an attempt to regain control. Understand your strengths and weaknesses, do what you do best and allow others to step up to complete the gaps.
What are you doing when you get your best ideas?
Innovation and creativity are not the product of logical thought. The creative side of our brain cannot work at the same time as our logical side. It’s impossible to dream up new ideas when we’re immersed in the stress and pressures of getting our jobs done.
Do you provide the time, space and permission for your team to create?
Is failure an option?
Innovation is seldom successful the first time. How do you manage failure? Does everyone know what the consequences are of getting it wrong?
I’ve worked for a boss who thought that motivation was a cocktail of blame, shame and humiliation; it didn’t work. Failure is a given in life. Does the fear of failure close you down to no more attempts or do you take the lessons learned to strengthen your arsenal and once again venture forth?
How do you manage expectations?
Are there clear boundaries in place and does everyone know and understand them? Were they imposed or a joint effort with regular reviews? We’ve all got legal requirements that need to be met but innovative ideas are a creative thing.
Do you take a moment as an organisation to acknowledge a good job, well done? A memorable moment during a visit to British Airways Maintenance was learning that when work on the plane has been completed, every engineer who has worked on the project stands to the side of the runway and applauds as it takes off.
What have you all achieved today that needs to be applauded?
More from Louise on how leadership and softer skills can improve your business:-
Strategic support to help your business grow
Our innovation specialists will help you identify barriers to innovation and growth, and help you enhance your innovation capabilities to achieve business growth.