Innovation has always been an indispensable driver of progress, reshaping industries and propelling businesses forward. But why do some organizations just do it better than others? Those organizations practice an important principle — they embrace diversity of thought.
It’s often thought that innovation is the domain of a privileged few, characterized by ingenious thinkers, executives, creatives or right-brainers who single-handedly come up with brilliant ideas. However, the true essence of innovation is far more empowering — it is a quality that resides within every individual, regardless of titles, roles and backgrounds.
No one has a monopoly on creative thinking or the ability to see things from a different perspective. While certain individuals may innately be more creative thinkers, the potential for innovation is available to everyone. In the right conditions, anyone can be an idea machine.
Encouraging individuals across all levels to share their unique insights and ideas creates a culture of problem-solving. During many typical brainstorming sessions, you will find similar people, going into a typical conference room, in front of a whiteboard, with the idea that in this sea of sameness, new ideas will be generated. That poor team is doomed from the start. It’s not so surprising then that the ideas are less innovative and more likely just incremental improvements.
Organizations can enhance their innovation capabilities by:
- Embracing inclusivity. At your next brainstorming session, stretch the boundaries of who you would normally include. Invite individuals from other departments, interns as well as executives, and even some from outside your organization.
- Changing the landscape. Have your brainstorming sessions anywhere but in the usual space. Go outside, to a different building, anything but the same room where you always hold these sessions. New environments spark new ideas.
- Following through. Don’t ask for ideas, only to ignore them. It’s important to not only have a wide variety of people participate in the ideation process but also to stay engaged with them through the entire lifecycle. Not all ideas are good ideas, but all need to see how their collective ideas are implemented, transformed into something even greater or possibly shelved as a future potential initiative, and understand why.
- Acknowledge and communicate. Recognizing and applauding innovative contributions, regardless of their scale, reinforces the principle that everyone plays a pivotal role in propelling innovation. Even if not everyone in the company can participate in some form of an innovation session, if you are encouraging their input and ideas, ensure being acknowledged.
- Fostering a creative environment. It can be difficult to ask people to take the time and go be creative without providing them with the resources to do so. Your organization doesn’t have to go as far as Google’s famous 20 percent policy, where they allow employees to spend at least 20 percent of their time on pet projects, but there needs to be some allocation for people to take on the added role of helping your organization come up with breakthrough ideas.
Creativity resides in the heart of every individual across your entire organization. It should not be an annual event or a special exercise, but a mindset embraced by the company, backed with up with processes and support. Your organization’s ability to harness the full breadth of everyone’s innate capability to tap into their creativity holds massive potential for innovative progress. ●
Dean Ilijasic is Co-founder of Long & Short of It