A lot of the time—too much of the time—new ideas die on the vine. We aren’t ready for them when they hit us, we don’t nurture them, we put up roadblocks to stop them in their tracks or we simply let them fizzle by not providing appropriate support.
There are measured ways to foster innovation, though. Consider a few of these.
1. Carry a notebook or an audio recorder with you. You never know when a great idea will strike—on a walk, in the shower, in the car or at the grocery store—so capture it immediately, right where you are. Did you realize your smartphone has a built-in voice-recorder app?
2. Ask the right questions. Your team should be motivated to make improvements and comfortable suggesting new things. Even small changes can yield significant results.
At your next staff meeting, ask what one thing they would change in the workplace to improve productivity by 1 percent. Reward suggestions with gift cards and see how much more quickly they come.
3. Consider all ideas carefully. A particular idea may not work, but a variation of it might. Cross-fertilization may produce something unique, so get team members to piggyback off one another’s ideas. Write down suggestions on slips of paper, throw them in the center of the table and challenge people to build on another’s thoughts.
4. Keep an open mind, and open others’ minds. You must prune away any because-we’ve-always-done it-that-way attitudes. Reluctance to change will keep your idea garden from growing. Ask, “If we had to scrap this and start over, how would we perfect it?”
5. Revisit good ideas regularly. As the last agenda item at the end of a regularly scheduled meeting, raise a question for team members to ponder. Let their subconscious simmer for a week. Then bring up the topic at the beginning of the next meeting to see what developed.
Static teams stagnate. Those that grow survive. In business, growth requires innovation, creativity and forward thinking. As a leader, you must do your part to foster growth.