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Innovate: It’s the Only Way!

Some say it is the economy, others speak about the lack of motivation of staff members, and many attribute it to the increased lack of balance between work and personal life. Whatever it is –this state of limbo, of disengagement, of blah — it has seeped into many organizations. This is a recurring theme with many of our clients at Training By Design: the topic of motivation, or lack thereof, as the case may be.

Some say it is the economy, others speak about the lack of motivation of staff members, and many attribute it to the increased lack of balance between work and personal life. Whatever it is –this state of limbo, of disengagement, of blah — it has seeped into many organizations. This is a recurring theme with many of our clients at Training By Design: the topic of motivation, or lack thereof, as the case may be. I walk into countless meetings where the first thing out of the mouths of leaders is, “How can I motivate my people?” “How can we get out of our rut?” “Why isn’t my organization more engaged, excited, passionate about what we are doing?” There are many answers, reasons, and responses to this question; but the one answer that gets to the heart of all of these questions is innovation. It is certainly not a new concept, but one that often needs guidance to get started or re-started. The busier we get, the lower on the list of priorities innovation falls. I am here to tell you that it is a sure-fire way to counter the blues of any enterprise.

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So how do you innovate? Let’s look at some ideas to get you started.

How to put innovation in your organization:

The first step is to look at yourself as a leader and take stock in what you are doing and the messages those actions are sending. Ask yourself these questions and mark down your answers:

· Are we doing what we are passionate about? It is hard to innovate or motivate if the answer is “no.” And if the answer is “no”, how can you shift to doing work you are passionate about?

· Do we constantly look at how to do things differently? “One way” is never “the only way” and doing things the same way every day makes you stale and the work routine.

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· Do we embrace change? Change is the only guaranteed constant — learn to love it.

· Do we constantly talk about our purpose and values and live by them? When these are shared, understood and lived, they energize people.

· Do we take risks? There is reward at calculated risk; it gives a team excitement and juice. Encourages your team to think differently and keep ideas fresh.

· Do we focus on problems or possibilities? This is a no-brainer. If you focus on problems, you solve one problem; if you focus on possibilities, you not only solve the problem at hand, but also come up with countless ways to take on new challenges with energy and interest.

· How resilient are you? When your team has a setback, is it a call to action to pull together or a call to complain and blame? How resilient you are defines how you will be when up against the competition.

When is the right time to innovate?

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The best way to assess if you need an innovation injection is through internal climate surveys or 360’s. When you receive feedback that the work no longer makes your team hum, it is time to take action. It doesn’t need to be dramatic. Sometimes, it is as simple as changing how your meetings are run, initiating brainstorms for cooler work, or re-engaging people in your purpose and values. Creating meaning and involvement for people is what makes them tick and as a result, makes them stick.

Who do I include in this innovation revolution?

Start with your leadership and move to your masses. It is wise to have an innovation plan, so that when you get to the masses, it is not all talk, but has some meat and action to it.

Try This:

Once you have answered the questions in “how to put innovation into your organization” and written down your answers, pull a diversified group of people together from your company and ask them the same questions. See how closely you are aligned and have a conversation about what to change. Be open to the possibilities that they may not see what you see. Be in curiosity, not defensiveness. Once you have their input, make a plan, and commit to some shifts and changes. DO SOMETHING. If you take the initiative to have this conversation and make no changes, it will have the opposite effect on your team; they will be de-motivated and see it as a futile effort. It is better to do nothing at all than to dangle the carrot and then not deliver it.

A few more thoughts:

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Gary Hamel, author of How to Thrive in Turbulent Times by Making Innovation a Way of Life, offers these learnings from companies that are innovating and staying profitable:

· Variety is the key to evolution.
· An unhealthy adherence to conformity and alignment will drive out innovation and innovative people.
· Innovators challenge the dogmas and the orthodoxy’s of the incumbents and that is a good thing.
· Innovators spot the trends that are already changing, but have gone unnoticed.
· Innovators learn to live inside the customer’s skin.

So — are you ready to assess yourself and your organization and move out of the blah and into the ahhhh?

Grace Andrews • Executive Coach/Corporate Healer • President, Training By Design • Boston, MA • gandrews@training-by-design.com • www.training-by-design.com

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