What leads to engagement and innovation?
There is an endless supply of problems in the workplace. Some of us get stressed by these while others get creative.
The real question is how do we create a culture of innovation and engagement? How is it that some companies seem to have an endless stream of great ideas that they are able to put into practice, while others are continually chasing their tails? How can you, as a manager or member of a team, contribute in a way that brings the team together in a positive, idea-sharing environment compared to a highly stressed, competitive one?
Share vision and define goals
Creative thinking often requires some guidelines. A blank canvas can create confusion or give you writer's block. A shared vision with defined goals is a way to hone your thinking in a particular direction. It is not always possible to have a perfect plan of how to reach your goals, but if the goals are well defined and everyone contributes to what those goals are – then you suddenly have a channel for everyone to put their creative energies towards.
Many mangers think it is obvious what our shared vision and goals are, but don't bother making this a regular discussion, which it needs to be as circumstances and priorities change.
Draw the link between the company and team goals with the individual's goals so they remain motivated and can see their part in the whole picture. Be clear about the future, the goals and the person's role and their individual goals.
Make sure your future vision and goals for yourself are a good fit with the business. If they are not it will negatively impact your level of engagement and satisfaction.
Show enthusiasm and make it fun
Stress and frustration are the enemies of engagement and innovation. Managers need to lead by example and create a fun environment. When people enjoy an environment they tend to be much more team oriented and creative, so think about what you can do today to take the edge off the stress in the office and to replace it with a bit of enthusiasm, fun and excitement. When you are enthused you will likely communicate more often and draw others to follow with that infectious enthusiasm.
Identify and create opportunities to improve
Most people want to improve their performance in the workplace – but are you creating opportunities to do so? Some cutting edge companies have an allocated percentage of time per week dedicated to innovation and brainstorming, where employees can work on ideas of their own, and develop them within the company. A simpler way may be to encourage idea submissions and have a meeting once a fortnight, or once a month, in which the ideas are discussed as a group.
Make a point of creating a culture where people are pleased to see opportunities to improve... where the improvements themselves are enjoyable, not a punishment.
Share challenges and be honest
The combined efforts of a group can provide quantum leaps in innovations. The best companies encourage staff to bounce ideas off each other. Everyone who discusses the idea brings a slightly different perspective, which can highlight new opportunities. It requires honesty – an openness of thoughts and feelings – to really cultivate the kind of productive environment that every workplace is capable of.
Sometimes it is not all good news. Don't hold back the tough bits from the team. Share the obstacles and find a way forward together. Honest and up front usually is a great way to open up avenues of discussion and shared problem-solving.
We are so busy these days it is easy to leave out the important step of sharing an outcome, being together to celebrate a tough finale to a project. Maybe you didn't achieve all the wins, but at least share the fact that it is now completed.
Focus on completion and when you get there have a good time – try a shared lunch or breakfast. Take that time to evaluate what went well and what didn't.
This is a time to start the innovation process because often the fun times bring about excitement for new ideas, or how to do things better – and from there we innovate.
Celebrations need to be shared. Companies in which people fight over who gets credit for what lead to people becoming very protective and political with their ideas. Shared celebrations really eliminate this subversive culture, and if there is one small change you make immediately then this is the one that will make the most significant difference.
Innovation doesn't happen by accident. Even creative and innovative people will struggle to produce great things in an environment where the culture is toxic and averse to idea sharing and honesty. Make changes today to create a focus on group problem-solving and idea exchange and watch the enthusiasm of your team boost!
Eve Ash has produced some short entertaining comedy videos for teams to have fun in team meetings whilst discussing ways to improve: Embracing New Ideas, Staying Motivated at Work and Welcoming New People. Eve has filmed in organisations like SEEK and developed a series of workplace excellence videos documenting what best practice companies do best: Vision & Values, Motivating Fun Workplace, and Innovation & Continuous Improvement.