Computers, smart phones, the internet et al have made our work habits vastly different from less than a generation ago. Perhaps more importantly, technology has heightened the speed in which companies need to constantly adapt current strategy. As a result companies need to have innovative employees who have the time and engagement to generate ideas. Despite the changes, the working environment and long held management beliefs have stayed mostly the same. And it is the staid working environment and twentieth century beliefs that are keeping a lid on unleashing company creativity. Luckily there are some easy things that can be done to unleash creativity and make teams more dynamic.
1. Diversify your strategy team
I think it is the third commandment of leadership that states “only direct reports should make up your management team”. It is a commandment that many leaders stick to religiously. Yet it honestly doesn’t make a great deal of sense. Not every person that directly reports to you will be a creative genius. That does not mean that they don’t have good things to offer. It just means that coming up with innovative ideas probably just isn’t one of them. But I guarantee you that there are people among your team that are idea machines. So look beyond your current inner circle, find the talent, and have them join your management team.
2. Create an Idea Space
My last great idea came while waiting in the dentist’s office….said no one ever! And it is pretty understandable why. The blandness of a waiting room is hardly inspiring. Yet most company meeting rooms shockingly resemble a dentist’s waiting room (copies of old People magazines excluded). So create a space with a bit more of a creative energy inducing style. Caffeine generally amps people so put in a coffee machine. Install a white board so people can jot down ideas. Get rid of the desk chairs and put in a comfortable sofa. Change the lightening, and call the room what it is, an idea space.
3. Allow people time to think
Spending the money to create an idea space wont mean squat if your people don’t actually have the time to utilize it. If you follow the “everybody must be busy-busy” school of management then it is quite likely the room will get used more like a drop in coffee station than an idea space. It is important therefore that scheduling time to use the idea space becomes and remains a priority for you and your team.
4. Nurture the ideas
People will never try to generate ideas if they are constantly worried that they will be mocked for them. Or worse, they feel like their ideas are always being ignored. So remember, what might seem like a bad idea at the beginning can actually morph into a really good one. Rather than cut off every idea, open it up to a group discussion and see where it might lead. You might end up being very pleasantly surprised.
5. Make strategy a team effort
Achieving some stupendous strategic goal might be a career target for you, but if it isn’t for everyone else then you are probably not going to get a lot of creative help and team engagement toward achieving it. So make your vision and goals a team effort. And if you don’t have a vision or goal, you now have the perfect idea space in which to develop and work on one. With your team, naturally.