How do you inspire creative thinking in your team without engaging the muse or adopting questionable practices? Stephen Wunker provides six practical steps that won’t break the law but will help break through constraints of the mind.
How do I get my team to show creative thinking?” Under normal circumstances, many executives we work with routinely face this challenge. But with the pandemic transforming the way we do business, bold thinking has turned into a necessity.
Several obstacles block innovative thinking, especially at established firms with a deeply engrained corporate work practices. People have busy schedules, work in siloed teams, and have trouble breaking away from longstanding assumptions about their market. They might lack the confidence that they can be creative and are worried their ideas will reflect poorly on them. They may be coming up with the same old answers because they keep asking the same old questions, not reframing their challenges or bringing new information to the table. And with COVID-19 thrown into the mix, engaging colleagues in a remote brainstorming session has become all the more challenging.
So what can executives do to encourage creative thinking? In our work, we’ve identified six best practices that companies can adopt to unlock bold ideas internally.
1 – Put your team in the right mindset ahead of time
Creative thinking doesn’t simply happen on the spot – you have to set the stage first. Before holding your workshop, make sure you communicate the urgency of the situation and the need for innovative ideas. Ideally, share around some data on your business’s performance, market trends, and upcoming threats to support your ask.
When it comes to prework, there are a few key things to keep in mind. First, make sure your team is aligned on what problem they are solving for – by holding a question-storming session before the main workshop, for instance. Then, make any prework as easy as possible for your colleagues by providing templates and clear guidelines on what’s in scope and what isn’t. This will help them save time and structure their submissions in a consistent, focused way.
Key points include:
- Identify focal areas
- Look beyond borders
- Identify and address assumptions and biases
Read the full article, 6 Ways To Inspire Creative Thinking In Your Team, on NewMarketsAdvisors.com.
Amanda Setili explains how innovation is key to the evolution of an organisation, and how leaders can take action to speed the process.
As much as leaders like to talk about innovation, a more accurate term for the process they wish to employ is evolution. Success in business comes from a lot of small actions and insights that accumulate and work to evolve the organization to a completely different state.
In nature, an individual organism mutates and if it proves successful, then that animal is more likely to reproduce and thus perpetuate their proven trait in subsequent generations. That’s how species evolve, and that’s how your organization needs to adapt.
Almost every day, someone in your company comes up with a better idea, tactic or strategy. In most cases, these advances have a relatively small impact because only a few people know about them. Even within a single department, it’s possible for someone to come up with a better idea and keep it to themselves. So, one sales person gets more effective, but her colleagues don’t adopt her approach, because they are unaware of it.
The way leaders speed up evolution is to help their organization establish a habit of identifying and sharing these incrementally better ideas. (In a similar manner, they can help to eliminate weaker ideas that haven’t made the grade.) To be clear, I’m not talking about giving orders from on top, but rather about reinforcing outcomes that have already emerged within your organization.
Key points include:
- Team leadership
- Employee recognition
- Sourcing innovative tactics
Read the full article, Speeding Up the Evolutionary Process of Your Company, on LinkedIn.
Robyn M. Bolton makes a poignant observation on the popular approach to innovation and provides a few tips on how to punch out of the proverbial box.
The definition of insanity is repeating the same actions over and over again and expecting different results.”
This quote, often (wrongly) attributed to Albert Einstein, is a perfect description of what has been occurring in corporate innovation for the last 20+ years.
In 1997, The Innovator’s Dilemma, put fear in the hearts of executives and ignited interest and investment in innovation across industries, geographies, and disciplines. Since then, millions of articles, thousands of books, and hundreds of consultants (yes, including MileZero) have sprung forth offering help to startups and Fortune 100 companies alike.
Yet the results remain the same.
After decades of incubators, accelerators, innovation teams, corporate venture capital (CVC), growth boards, hackathons, shark tanks, strategies, processes, metrics, and futurists, the success rate of corporate innovation remains stagnant.
Stop the insanity!
I have spent my career in corporate innovation, first as part of the P&G team that launched Swiffer and Swiffer WetJet, later as a Partner at the innovation firm founded by Clayton Christensen, and now as the founder of MileZero, an innovation consulting and coaching firm.
Key points in this article include:
- The head vs. heart dilemma
- A common scenario
- Investing in innovation
Read the full article, Our Approach to Innovation is the Definition of Insanity, so Let’s Try Something Different, on Medium.
Jared Simmons explains why simplifying assumptions could be the key to unlocking value faster and freeing up your knowledge workers to innovate.
I learned the power of simplifying assumptions early in my career. As an engineering student, I watched my professors fill boards with Greek letters and symbols, exponents and integrals, constants and variables. Then, in the last 10 minutes of class we worked a real problem together. The first step of solving the real problem was always to use the context of the problem to apply simplifying assumptions to the theoretical equation. Things like material composition, physical location, and scale let us whittle that complex equation down to a more manageable size. Essentially, they allowed us to build real, specific things based on universal theories. Because we understood the theory behind it, we could quickly identify the right simplifying assumptions for each new practical application. An hour in understanding, 10 minutes in practical application.
The two main points discussed in this article are:
- Barriers to applying simplifying assumptions at work
- Why simplification matters
Read the full article, The power of simplifying assumptions, on the Outlast website.
Recently, there has been much discussion about the value of play for helping creative ideas flourish, but Kaihan Krippendorff shares examples of play at work and provides 10 ways to inject play into your organization.
In the 1830s, an artist and tinkerer, Samuel Morse, directed his curiosity to a question few had considered before. Numerous scientists and inventors across the globe were working on the problem of how to communicate across long distances more quickly.
At the time, information could travel only as fast as a human could. Ink on paper would be rushed to its recipient by horse, later by canal, later by steam engine. Each innovation accelerated the speed of communication, but none could break the limitations that physics put on the written word.
While scientists and inventors around the world worked on plans that could accelerate the speed of communication (e.g., one team was working on a system of telescopes and flashing lights dotted across land), Morse approached the challenge from an artistic bent. He was more curious about the physical experience humans had in trying to decipher and make sense of blinks, how to paint signals onto paper.
Areas of interest in this article include:
- Revving up the speed of communication
- A painter inspired by play
- Play your way to a breakthrough
- You can’t have success without failure
- 10 ways to inject play
Read the full article, Play: The Source of Innovation, on Kaihan’s website.
Amanda Setili shines a light on an initiative that sparked employee engagement, inspired innovation, and motivated collaboration.
What does a 110-year-old company do to increase the rate of innovation from less than one new business per year to 50?
The answer, says David Lee, Vice President of Innovation and New Ventures at UPS, is to launch a program that taps into the brilliant growth ideas lurking in the heads of many of its 480,000 employees.
The program is called Upstarts, and it invited employees to “in five pages or less, tell us your idea for growth.”
To spur interest, Lee’s team held mixers in cities around the world, from Shanghai, to Neuss, Germany, to Toronto and Miami. Employees heard what UPS was hoping to achieve through the program, and how they could contribute.
“It’s not just about ideas,” Lee explains. “It’s about finding teams of passionate, talented people.
Read the full article, Upstarts Kick-Start the Pace of Innovation at UPS, on Amanda’s website.
To inspire successful innovation, Kaihan Krippendorff explains why the composition of the founding team is crucial and why the first step should be to find a sherpa. He provides six questions to help you assess and secure a powerful advocate to lead the team.
That historic moment when the perfect team unifies beyond an opportunity, pregnant with possibility, is the essential scene of any great innovation legend: think Jobs and Wozniak when they created Apple, Gates and Allen with Microsoft, or Page and Brin with Google.
This is why so many books and professors and venture capitalists focus on the composition of the founding team – you want more than one person but fewer than seven, the right mix of personality types (Roger Hamilton offers a useful framework), and a balance of skills (the hacker, hustler, and hipster). But here is the problem. More than 70% of society’s most transformative innovations have come from employees, not entrepreneurs, and forming a team around an innovation idea as an employee is a fundamentally different challenge.
Read the full article, Your Innovation Needs a Sponsor… Here are 6 Signs You Have the Right One, on the Outthinker website.
In this TEDX talk at Columbia University, Kaihan Krippendorff discusses employee innovation within the model of disruption, and how it helps activate lean, agile innovation and growth in your organization.
“Employees are the number one source of innovative growth options and the only remaining source of true competitive advantage. Arming them with the skills and tools necessary to innovate on a continual basis is of paramount importance to organizational survival.”
Points covered in the talk include:
-The path of the entrepreneur
-The innovation myth
Watch the Ted Talk, Change the World without Quitting Your Job, on Youtube.