Every leader’s dream is to have a team that is proactive, innovative, and creative. These teams are more likely to come up with new ideas, solve problems more effectively, and achieve better results.
There are many things that leaders can do to foster creativity and innovation in their teams. Here are a few key techniques:
- Create a culture of psychological safety. This means creating an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their ideas, even if they are not fully formed or seem risky. Psychological safety is essential for creativity and innovation, as it allows people to take risks and experiment without fear of judgment or reprisal.
- Encourage collaboration and socialization. Creativity and innovation often happen when people from different backgrounds and with different perspectives come together to share ideas. Leaders can encourage collaboration and socialization by creating opportunities for team members to interact and work together on projects. This could include team-building activities, cross-functional teams, or simply providing spaces where people can gather informally.
- Provide resources, dedicated time, and support. Creativity and innovation require time, space, and resources. Leaders should ensure that their teams have access to the resources they need to be creative, such as time to think and experiment, access to information and technology, and support from other team members. if teams are constantly under delivery pressure they will not have any time to slow down think creatively, and innovate
Here are two specific examples of how leaders can foster creativity and innovation in their teams:
Example 1: The Hewlett-Packard quilting group
In the late 20th centaury, Hewlett-Packard conducted a study to identify the sources of innovation in their company. Surprisingly, they found that a single network of about 35 women engineers in a specific location was responsible for about a third of all of the company’s significant product innovation ideas.
When the women were interviewed, it was found that these women were all members of the quilting group in one of the offices. They said that they simply enjoyed getting together during lunch time to make quilts and they talked to each other about their work, their families, and their lives. And this cross-functional casual get-togethers without any delivery pressure resulted in significant number of product innovation ideas.
This example shows that creativity and innovation can happen when people are given the space and time to connect with each other and share their ideas. Leaders can foster this type of environment by creating opportunities for team members to socialize and collaborate, both inside and outside of work.
Example 2: The elevator problem
Ross Ackoff, a systems thinker, tells a story about an office building in New York City that had a problem with its elevators. The elevators were slow and people were waiting too long.
The building manager hired consultants to solve the problem. The consultants charged a lot of money and came back with a few recommendations, but none of them were viable. The building manager was desperate, so he invited his entire team to an ideation workshop to come up with creative solutions.
An ideation workshop has one main rule, and that is no-one is allowed to criticize anyone else’s ideas. Creativity by definition means thinking outside the box, so we need to encourage unconventional ides, things that may not seem to be practical at first. In an ideation workshop if you think sometime is not going to work the only comment you allowed to make is on how to make it work.
One of the team members, a young man who was usually very quiet, suggested that the problem was not the length of time that people were waiting, but the fact that they were bored while they were waiting. He suggested that putting mirrors or other entertainment in the elevator lobby would help to reduce boredom and make the wait more bearable. The safety of the ideation workshop encouraged this young man to voice his opinion who may not have shared his idea in a formal meeting in an intimidating setting.
The building manager implemented the young man’s suggestion and it worked. People were no longer bothered by the wait because they had something to entertain themselves while they were waiting.
This example shows that creativity and innovation can come from anywhere. Leaders should encourage all of their team members to share their ideas, even if they seem crazy or out of the box.
By following these tips, leaders can create a more innovative and creative team environment. This will help their teams to come up with new and better ideas, solve problems more effectively, and achieve better results.
A few years ago, Arash Arabi, the founder of Sprint Agile presented these concepts in a video at the International Institute of Directors and Managers. In this video Arash describes how to foster creativity and innovation in your teams.