One of the favorite references around the need for innovation in management is this, “It is important to see it first, most anybody can see it eventually.” Companies, and business units within companies, must constantly invent new ways to grow and prosper. Most would say, “of course” but take a close look at most results, and you will find little if any innovation. Business usual is the breakfast of stagnation!
Managers and executives must commit to the creative thinking focus maintained by the best companies today. Consider this question, “Do you really think your best competition maintains a business as usual culture?” Take it for granted that their top people lay awake at night thinking of the next innovation in product, service, process and customer focus.
Here, are several very practical and effective ways for today’s leaders to build the “innovation mind-set into their DNA.
1. Commit to Innovation. Seems logical, but you can not give lip service to creative thinking. Each manager must live breath and focus themselves, and their team, on constant innovation. Every meeting, every interaction, every assignment and every conversation must include serious focus on “how do we get better through innovation.”
2. Broaden the experience of the business unit. The best minds around the innovation mind-set will tell you that the seeds for innovation breakthrough come from “broadening the experience” of the team. The manager must consistently promote activities such as networking, seminars, outside training, classes (local universities, etc) and professional associations. Using “job swaps and cross-training can be very effective. Any activity where employees can learn new perspectives and gain new ideas that could form the basis for innovation.
3. Strength in a core area and breadth in a wider spectrum are the keys. This is not about becoming a “a master of none” scenario. It is very important to continue to develop and nurture an employees best strength. This is about widening the employees knowledge base. An organization called IDEO, a creative thinking consultancy promotes this process as “T-shaped.” that is to say, employees need to build a specialty in a core area they are good at and wider knowledge in related and broader areas.
4. Promote and encourage the “questioning mentality.” Members of the business unit need to challenge the status-quo. The mind-set the manager needs to encourage is “why are we doing things this way?” Everything is on the table for improvement. Reward and recognize new ideas. Even where an idea is not workable, the employee should receive sincere thanks for thinking outside the box.
5. Use meetings as a forum for creative innovation. Managers can put innovation and status quo challenging on the Agenda for virtually every meeting with the team. This can be a formal part of the agenda or a meeting ending question. “Where can we get better? What is getting in our way? What new ideas will help us to grow?”
6. Managers and executives absolutely need to believe they are one new idea from changing the world. There is strength and energy in the commitment and belief that a new idea is possible that will change everything. Managers can take their cue from Apple and Steve Jobs. Whether the CEO or the manager of a business unit, all leaders are responsible for the vision that constant, focused energy around innovation will lead to igniting success.
Perhaps the genius behind the greatest innovation mind-set is a rare quality. That said; every manager and every employee can contribute new and better ideas for the company. It is the responsibility for every manager and executive to promote, promote, promote the mind-set of finding ideas to get better. When this creative process starts to flow, effective delegation and execution will come into play. Today’s business challenges require the “innovation mind-set” to become a core competency.