7 Ways to Encourage Innovation: The Secret Sauce To Team Success

Team Innovation Is The Secret Sauce To Success Tamara Ghandour

Getting a team to innovate beyond a creative off-site meeting once a quarter can feel challenging. In order to truly encourage innovation, teams must weave innovation into their daily work. In LaunchStreet’s work with clients, we’ve found 7 ways to encourage innovation that are the secret sauce to any team's success. 

7 Ways to Encourage Innovation with Your Team

Give Risk A Name:

Risk shuts down a lot of innovation efforts. The fear of failure takes over and innovation dies. Why?  Because we avoid talking about risk. Risk becomes the invisible boogeyman and scares off innovation efforts. But, if you want to encourage innovation, you must talk about risk openly and honestly. Talk about worst case scenarios. Put it all out on the table. When you talk about risk, you minimizes the fear factor. As you discuss, you'll find that the perceived risk isn’t nearly as bad as you imagined it to be. Talk about risk. Say it out loud. Give it a name.

Reward Behavior

If you want your team to be innovative, reward the behaviors that get you there. All too often we wait until the outcomes to reward our teams. But, if you look at leading companies, you’ll find that they reward the behaviors that get them to innovation. Ray Dalio used to hire people because they would debate with him. To him, debate led to the success of Bridgewater. He’s not wrong. Other clients of LaunchStreet reward giving feedback. Not when or if they took action on it, but when they initially gave the feedback. If you want to encourage innovation, reward behaviors.

Test to Discover

Nothing satisfies the creative spirit like bringing your ideas to life. All too often innovation gets shut down by the all-or-none mentality. The decision to move forward is seen as either a “go to launch” massive investment or something to shelve. This approach shuts down innovation in two ways. First, it keeps people from bringing ideas to the table because they know it’s an all-or-none decision. That feels overwhelming. Second, making a full decision about an idea before testing it means giving the green light on a less than optimized idea. Both aren’t great for innovation. To encourage innovation with your team, give them the room to test out their ideas in small ways. Build a prototype, test with one client, talk to one customer. Testing fosters optimized ideas and more investment in innovation overall.

Make Space, Not Meetings

When you walk through the office doors and hit the ground running with meetings until you leave, innovation takes a backseat. Many of my colleagues are double or even triple booked all day, every day. If you want to build a culture of innovation, shorten or stop the meetings. Give your people the breathing room to innovate. I purposefully don’t take meetings in the morning because that’s when I do my best thinking. People must have space to innovate. 

Empower Them

Why doesn't your team innovate? They don’t know how. Perhaps they’ve been told they aren’t innovative or they’ve shoved their innovative side in a drawer for so long they forgot what drawer it's in. To encourage innovation with your teams, help them understand how they innovate. In doing so you’ll empower them to tap into their natural talents and strengths. People want to know how they innovate so they can do more of it. If you want to discover how your team innovates, check out the Innovation Quotient Edge assessment. Your team will discover their unique Innovator Archetypes and how to leverage them for success.  

Challenge Everyone, Not Titles:

It’s very easy to think that certain people are the innovative ones. Whether that’s because of their titles, location on the org chart, or their wild purple hair. Leaders often look just to those few people to innovate. The rest of the team gets passed up, avoiding or eliminating many people who can add value to the innovation process.  Unintentionally, the leader disempowers most of the team. If you want to encourage innovation, challenge everyone to innovate regardless of title. You’ll be amazed where a good idea can come from. And often times, it’s not where you think.

Be Consistent

Your team has heard it before. To them, your mandate to innovate is just a flavor of the month. They know it will either fizzle or fail. If you want to create a culture of innovation that is sustainable, be consistent. Don’t just talk about innovation at team meetings. Talk about it daily. Ask them what new and interesting things they're working on. Show them you're investing in them and in innovation. Give them access to tools like the affordable IQE Pro Innovation Toolkit so they have the right tools they need at their fingertips. Make innovation part of their job responsibilities and daily tasks, not something you only do at 3 p.m. brainstorm sessions with scented markers, or when they have “extra” time. Besides, who has extra time?

Encouraging innovation with your teams doesn’t have to be hard, but it does have to be a daily priority. If you do any or all of the above, innovation will flow.

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