It doesn’t matter what industry you work in: the ability to be creative and innovative is something that every business should have if they’re to maintain their competitive edge. Often, ins, not with individuals, as it is the combination of different expertise, personalities, ages, and cultures which brings together a variety of thoughts and ideas.
As a leader, your job is to embrace this process and to act in a timely way on the creative thoughts of your team. To make sure you’re getting the very best from your team, consider implementing these 11 ways to encourage innovative thinking.
In large businesses in particular it can be easy for different departments to become segregated and shut off from each other, making it difficult for employees to fully appreciate how the business functions as a whole. Encouraging members of different departments to come together now and again can help your team to break out of their silos, be inspired by new ways of thinking and come up with ways in which departments could work together to make processes more efficient or effective.
Although tried and tested practices often seem like the safer option, sometimes we find ourselves doing things ‘the old way’ when there’s a better, more successful method out there. It’s always a good idea to look for alternative methods, and in doing so you’ll lead by example and encourage your team to do the same. You never know how much of a difference your team might make by exploring some alternative ideas.
Reverse mentoring is the process of teaming up senior and junior employees in order that both parties gain new skills and knowledge. Although a senior employee may have many years of business expertise and industry knowledge to pass on, the junior staff member might have valuable insights to share on new technologies which could be useful to the business, or have a better understanding of what makes young consumers tick. It may simply be that the junior employee has different perspectives on certain aspects of business, and the fresh way of thinking could do with being shared at a senior level. There are multiple ways in which younger, less experienced members of staff can mentor senior ones, and by combining the knowledge of junior and senior you may find that innovative new ideas begin bubbling up between them.
Creativity and innovation doesn’t always come when we’re restricted to the same office every day. Get out into new environments and encourage your team to do the same. A refreshing walk, lunch at a local cafe or even a Monday morning working from home could be enough to get the creative juices flowing.
With innovative thinking and new ideas inevitably comes a certain degree of risk-taking, but it’s important to embrace this rather than be afraid of it. When members of your team take risks and get things wrong, be sure to let them know that you tolerate the error and encourage them to learn from it. If you’re too quick to berate staff for ideas that go wrong, they’ll be unlikely to put forward future ideas for fear of failing again, which means plenty of fantastic ideas could go to waste. Focus on constructive criticism and ongoing learning, and your team will quickly figure out that with some carefully calculated risk, their new ideas can still come to life.