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Cheryl Cran: Three Ways to Boost Innovation and Creativity in the Workplace

Cheryl Cran: Three Ways to Boost Innovation and Creativity in the Workplace

According to McKinsey, 94% of companies are not satisfied with their innovation performance. In these fast-paced times of change and ongoing disruption there is only one way to increase your competitive advantage — build a transformational work culture where innovation and creativity are the norm.

63% of CEOs and senior leaders surveyed by NextMapping have stated that innovation and creativity are an integral part of their strategic plans. However, when asked whether their company had an “innovation culture” only 15% responded “yes”.

The biggest opportunity for leaders and teams to be future ready is to commit and align to an innovation culture, which fosters and properly supports innovation and creativity in the workplace. Here are three ways to get you started:

1. Create a Safe Environment Where People CAN Fail

Interestingly, senior leadership wants their leaders and teams to be more creative and yet there is a cultural undercurrent of “make no mistakes” running rampant throughout most workplaces.

Companies say they want team members who are able to look at things differently, try new things, and focus on continuous innovation. But if that same company then punishes failure, there won’t be any forward movement.

Research has found that innovation and creativity are direct outcomes of trying, failing, and trying again. For example, Steve Jobs insisted that his designers fail frequently because it meant that the optimal end product would be the most innovative.

Every culture will, of course, have its own “fail tolerance,” and leaders will need to be able to coach and guide employees through these failures using a set of clear parameters to better help them find a consistent focus on creative solutions. Progressive companies such as Google actually celebrate fails. According to a Fast Company article, Google employees are publicly applauded by their co-workers and leaders for their failures, and one reward Google gives is time off for employees to contemplate what their next project will be.

2. Build Innovation into Daily Job Practices

A workplace report by Workfront found that while 64% of employees say they are regularly asked to think of how they can do things in a completely new way, 58% say they’re so swamped with day-to-day work that they don’t have time to think beyond their daily to-do list.

As a leader, if you want your teams to innovate you need to help them build free thinking and brainstorming into their daily job functions.

Another hindrance to innovation is the silo mentality held by leaders and teams. When each department is focused solely on their department goals and success it hinders innovation overall. The Workfront report says that 86% of employees have no idea what their co-workers in other departments are working on. Collaboration and cross departmental information sharing greatly increases the potential for innovation.

For example, NextMapping recently worked with a client who was struggling to attract new workers and looking for creative solutions. Right now, the unemployment rate is at its lowest in North America. Companies are battling for talent, and traditional means of recruitment aren’t working anymore. Before holding an innovation strategy session with everyone in the company, we started with a survey that asked: what do our best workers have in common and what do our best workers do for hobbies? The responses helped us lead a brainstorm session with all departments to find creative ways to recruit new people.

This company was in the HVAC industry and we found that their best workers liked to work independently and their hobbies included hunting and fishing. From there we were able to help create a recruitment campaign geared towards hunting and fishing groups. This targeted, innovative approach helped them recruit new workers who were a successful culture fit. In addition, the company was able to stay ahead of competition because they had found their own recruitment success plan.

3. Help Leaders and Teams Develop “Design Thinking

Ultimately having the desire to create an innovation culture requires both leaders and teams to think in new and different ways.

Design thinking is a creative mindset that has an intentional focus on creating new and relevant solutions. The goal with design thinking is to come up with multiple creative solutions that solve problems for both external and internal customers, internal customers being leaders and teams.

So, how can organizations encourage design thinking?

Leaders first need to set a focus for creativity within the workplace. Start by sending out creative problems or games for teams to solve daily, or host a creative game before a meeting, and set challenges for teams to work on. Use apps and gamification to engage teams into thinking creatively on a daily basis. Reward and recognize workers who consistently focus on and bring creative solutions to the table.

40% of Fortune 500 companies will no longer be in existence in the next 10 years. Survival will depend on an organization’s ability to foster an innovation culture and embed it into to their daily operations.

A leadership and change expert, Cheryl Cran helps leaders and their teams build future workplaces, today. She was named the #1 future of work expert by Onalytica and one of the top ten future of work experts by GoCatalant. Cheryl is the author of seven books, including NextMapping: Anticipate, Navigate, and Create the Future of Work to be released February 2019.

Interested in learning more about Cheryl and what she can bring to your next event? Email us at [email protected].

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