Skillful execution of the things that matter is one of the secrets in my book 4 Secrets of High Performing Organizations. Innovation is a critical part of execution.
There was an article on the Hasbro Game Division’s approach to innovation in Monday’s Wall Street Journal. It seems that every Friday at lunchtime, game designers, marketing managers and other employees play board games in the cafeteria. This is part of the Hasbro product development strategy. The idea is help find ways to update its classic games and to create new ones.
I found this to be a pretty innovative way of going about product innovation. Below, I’ve listed a few ideas I have about how you can make your business and the people you lead more innovative.
- Intelligently match the right people with the right jobs in order to maximize their expertise and creative thinking skills. Making a good match requires that leaders have access to, and more importantly use, important information about employees and their preferences. Good listening and observation skills are important here. People express over time what interests and excites them. Are you listening and watching?
- Freedom to take different paths without censure. When people are free to approach their work the way they choose, innovation is more likely to result. This does not mean allowing total open-endedness or changing goals frequently or failing to define them clearly. That is a mismanagement of freedom.
- Commitment of resources: Time and money can either support or kill innovation. Some time pressures can heighten creativity. Organizations routinely kill innovation with fake deadlines or impossibly tight ones. This creates distrust, or burnout. Likewise, the lack of money to pursue alternative courses can quickly revert workplace processes to the status quo. Creativity takes time. Incubation periods are needed. And it takes some resources dedicated to the 'starts and fits' process usually involved in evolving innovative ideas.
- Diversity in the work-group: To maximize the potential of innovation, leaders need to create teams with a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds. When people come together with diverse intellectual foundations and approaches to work, ideas often combine in exciting and useful ways. Leaders often make the mistake of putting similar people together. Their very homogeneity, however, does little to enhance expertise and creative thinking.
- Effective incentives: To encourage ongoing creativity in thinking, leaders need to praise creative ideas and to acknowledge the effort and energy put forth by all who contribute insights to innovation and change -- even those ideas that are not put into practice. To sustain passion, the people you lead need to feel their work matters and is important. Leaders need to allow ideas and discussion to flow freely, and to support certain experiential work that may not culminate in a successful end result. In an environment where fear of consequences overrides exploring new and innovative ideas, creativity is thwarted.
- Organizational support: Innovation is enhanced when the entire organization – especially those leaders at the top support it. Leaders must ensure that information sharing and collaboration is the norm. Political problems and gossip take people's attention away from work. That sense of mutual purpose and excitement must be encouraged and supported. It can be killed by cliques and political factions, or the changeable whims of the leader. Often, the biggest hurdle to solving problems isn't ignorance -- it's access to the right information at the right time. Sometimes the sharing of information within organizations is not easy due to geographic distances, political squabbles, internal competition and bad incentive systems that hinder the spread of ideas.
If you put these six common sense ideas to work in your organization, you’ll be better at executing innovation in your organization and with the people you lead.
That’s it for today. Thanks for reading. Log on to my website www.BudBilanich.com for more common sense. Check out my other blog: www.CareerSuperStar.com for common sense advice on becoming a success in your life and career.
I’ll see you around the web, and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
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