7 Suggestions to Encourage Innovation on a Team

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Most leaders want to lead an innovative organization. Here are 7 ideas to encourage innovation in the heart of a person.

Most leaders want to lead an innovative organization. We don’t necessarily have to be the first to do something new, but we don’t want to be years behind either. As conservative as we might be — as long as we remain true to our core values — we still want to be “cutting edge” to some degree. We certainly don’t want to be stuck in the last decade.

But, here’s the problem.

As leaders, we can’t force innovation. We can’t mandate innovative people. And, if our people haven’t been innovative in a while, then there may not be much innovation going on in our world.

Innovation, in its purest form, means change, and while change can be forced upon people, the best changes, the kind that make an organization excellent, come from the heart of a person. Great innovation comes from the gut. You cannot legislate those kinds of changes.

There are things leaders can do, however, to encourage team members to be more innovative.

Here are 7 ideas to encourage innovation:

Get away from the office as a team. There is something about a change in surroundings that encourages a change in thought. Take a trip to another church — or if nothing else — around the city. Creative thoughts are fueled better outside your normal routine and environment. It’s a large investment, but we annually take our staff to visit with another church staff in a nearby city — far enough where must spend the night. Something huge comes from every time we do this.

Have a brainstorming session with open-ended questions. Ask questions such as, “What are we doing well?” “Where could we improve?” “What should we stop doing?” Bring someone in to guide this discussion if needed. Be sure to welcome diversity of thought. And, people know if they’re not welcome by the way you respond when they are shared.

Reward new ideas. If you recognize new thoughts and celebrate the success of innovation, people will want to be a part of it more. Make it a part of the DNA to elevate the value of innovation. Encourage thinking time. Don’t be afraid of “unproductive time” just to think. Teach the staff to discipline themselves to dream and plan. Make sure to build time to dream into your schedule as a leader. It helps if people know you do this — and if you actually share new ideas periodically — even often.

Have times together as a team that are simply fun. Something magical happens when you get people who work together out of their work zone and into their fun zone. They often still talk work — it’s what they share in common — but they share work in a more innovative and productive way. And, really in a more honest way. Take a day and go bowling. A college near us has a ropes course that we did together.

Remove obstacles to innovative thought. There are always communication barriers between team members and senior leadership. Discovering and eliminating them could be an innovation waterfall. One way is to get in the room, have a problem to be solved, and not always have the answers. In fact, have few answers. Let the answers emerge. Innovation will start to happen.

Invite new people to the table. It could be people on the team or people in the community, but new people equals new ideas. We’ve often brought staff spouses to the table to fuel our thoughts. And, it could be through a book you read together as a team. Discuss the author’s perspectives.

Set innovation timeline goals. If you want to eventually build a new website, for example, put a date on the calendar for when it MUST be completed. It’s amazing how creative we often become under deadline.

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