Leaders should encourage workers to think outside of the box. As leaders, we all want it. We all say it. We all wait for it to happen, Innovation. All too often the wait appears to be too long and true innovation seems to linger somewhere beyond our reach. Leaders whose organizations are not innovative enough seem to focus on that result – on the fact that employees are not finding faster, better, and more efficient ways to perform their work. Innovation is the result of a process.
Concentrating on improving this process by design rather than on the results by chance will foster an environment rich in new ideas and better ways of meeting your organizational needs. Daring your workers to think differently, empowering them to do so and facilitating a framework for success is the way to go. Converting innovation expectations into an action plan and driving towards completion requires a formal process. Continuously tweaking that process with the gift of failure offers the best perspective while driving performance by design and the best opportunity to transform your organization.
There are five easy steps you can take right now to establish a framework that may transform your employee workforce from monotonous to being a proficient innovation delivery device.
Personally Accept Failure
Personally accept failure as an opportunity to improve and not as an opportunity to discipline. Failure is an output of a process. It is an unplanned option within it that surfaces during process implementation. The process performed exactly as it was designed so the design of it is where the corrections are most effective. Accepting failure as an opportunity to improve drives the “how” and not the “why” within the culture. Determining “how” the process failed will lead to sustainable process changes. Focusing on the “why” it failed leads to blame, shame, and train. If you allow your organization to fail, it will do so frequently, it will recover quickly and it will be primed for innovation. There is no innovation without failure as an integral component. Let your organization know that it is okay to fail, to recover and to move forward.
Encouraging respectful conflict seems counterintuitive but the fact is that disagreement, or non-alignment of perspective, is a key factor in establishing an innovative culture. All decisions including yours, your team’s, and everyone’s are game for a challenge. If everyone agrees 100 percent of the time, your organization cannot be innovative. Disagreement within an organization offers the gift of perspective and varying perspectives drives better solutions and better solutions drive innovation. The key here is for you as the leader to moderate and assure fairness of voice, diversity of thought, and respectfulness amongst all participants.
Set Up a Framework
Set up the innovation framework for success. Make innovation a priority right up there with safety, schedule, cost, and quality performance. Set the expectation that efficiency of process and new approaches to solving your biggest issues are a requirement, a key to the doorway of processional success within your organization. Establish your performance reward criteria in writing and communicated it in ways that are understandable to your team. Set aside a ten to fifteen minute “brag-a-log” session in your staff meetings where your team members can thank each other and can highlight their innovations and accomplishments in support of the customer. Create an environment where innovation is celebrated and valued. Challenge your team to think differently at every opportunity.
Establish a Team
Formally establish an innovation team. Make your mark and promote your initiatives. The best way to do this is to take decisive action in this regard. Establish an innovation team reporting directly to you as the organizational leader. Include members of other functions and operational areas of responsibilities. On your EHS Innovation Team, ask Facilities, HR, Legal and others to join. Focus this team on efficiency of process. A good place to start is on increasing leader and employee engagement. Let the team select their leader and then turn them loose, no hold barred! Crazy ideas are often the best ones that lead to true innovation. Take their ideas and turn them into action. After a short while, you will have an inspired innovation delivery device.
Create opportunities for early career professionals to lead. Very often, early career professionals are buried under the weight of an organization. This is, most times, an untapped resource for innovation. Engage on a purposeful journey to create higher level opportunities for these early career professionals. This can be simply accomplished by having them either take part of or lead a business level team. The latter is better. Think about what needs to be done, provide the resources and empower high-performing early career professionals to make it happen. You’ll be glad you did.
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