“Innovation is the only way to win.”
This is from a guy who knew a thing or two about innovation...and winning: Steve Jobs.
There’s no denying the wrecking ball that is innovation—turning entire industries obsolete overnight, while also giving birth to new ones. It has put to market a head-spinning number of products, to the delight of Uber, Airbnb, Netflix, and Tesla faithful.
The world loves innovation and cheers its arrival. CEOs sing its praises, celebrating visionary leaders and innovative causes.
But, all that said, faced with the realities of turning a profit and making stockholders happy, only a small number of companies have truly seen through its innovative intent.
It seems that getting a team to innovate and create, involves a crystal ball and some magic dust to get right.
“Not so,” we say.
We at Kinetic Innovative Staffing believe that by looking at the successes, we can tease out lessons and insights that one can apply to build a powerhouse team.
So here are Five Innovation Principles that you can use in creating a team that loves to innovate:
1) Do The Thinking Yourself
We’ve mentioned that business leaders love to talk about innovation. You’ll never run low of people paying lip service to its value-creating powers.
These folks often see themselves as facilitators of the program in their companies, not necessarily being personally responsible for much of the creative thinking. But in their HBR article, “The Innovator’s DNA,” professors Christensen, Dyer and Gregersen pointed out that in the most innovative companies, the leaders themselves are doing the creative work.
They serve as the centre of innovation.
They spend 50% more time experimenting and asking questions like “Why do we do it this way? How can we do it better?” Their more blasé counterparts on the other hand are contented to read progress reports.
These DIY leaders are themselves, creative thinkers, first...who also happen to be CEOs. These would be your Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and your Steve Jobs. They have thousands of heads to do their bidding, but they don’t delegate this part of the program. They lead it themselves.
So if you want to lead a team of innovative thinkers, you have to step up and cultivate the practice yourself. You cannot cheer from the sidelines or the corner office. You’ve got to be at the frontlines, in the trenches, leading by example.
That is the price you have to pay to show people you mean business.
2) Make It Everybody’s Job
In a company with many parts, it’d be easy to leave the dirty work with the R&D people. But in innovative enterprises, everybody contributes to the task, wherever they stand in the organizational chart.
For example, Rite-Solutions, an award-winning IT company, runs an internal website that functions like a stock market of ideas. Employees are given $10,000 worth of “currency” to invest in various ideas posted on the “market.” The “investments” reflect the support for specific proposals and those with the most support are approved by leadership. (Also, the investors can volunteer to help bring the projects to fruition.)
Then, any real profits coming from the project is shared by the folks who invested and worked on it.
This “Mutual Fun” system has been responsible for 50% of the company’s growth...in the first year alone.
So yes, you take the lead, but you take everybody with you. You never go solo. The work is a volley back and forth of ideas, and everyone has something to contribute. People should know that you expect that of them.
3) Develop A Culture Of Failure
The practice of innovation is littered with failures, false starts and uncertainties. As a leader, you should be able to stomach these and teach your team to do the same.
A Wharton study uncovered why decision-makers or leaders reject creative ideas even when they say they want them. It could explain, for example, why the team from Xerox, the first to develop the personal computer, ultimately did not pursue the technology, or why Kodak, the first to develop digital cameras, lost the camera wars.
It might have something to do with uncertainty. In experiments, uncertainty affected test subjects’ perception of creativity and practicality. For example, test subjects were shown a new and innovative type of running shoe and were asked to rate its viability. Individuals with induced feelings of uncertainty rated the product significantly less viable than the control group.
Even a little uncertainty has been shown to make people run towards the familiar and the practical—probably one reason why innovative products and pitches are rejected in boardrooms.
As a leader, encourage your guys to thrive in uncertainty. Give them a lot of room to operate—to experiment, experience failure and start all over.
Products don’t come out of meetings perfect. They are designed, tested, and then redesigned and retested.
Instead of balking at uncertainty, motivate guys to “fail fast” and harvest as many lessons in the shortest amount of time.
4) Toss In A Monkey Wrench
One of the most effective ways of jumpstarting your team’s creative juices is by putting some constraints in front of them.
For example, during one of your brainstorming sessions ask, “If our warehouse catches fire and we lose all inventory. How can we continue deliveries in the same week (at the same prices)?”
This might open up new ideas on product sourcing, process efficiency and even mergers and acquisitions.
Somebody probably asked, “What if we had a bookstore, but didn’t have any physical books,” to which Amazon said, “Hold my beer.”
Or maybe somebody asked, “What if we had a restaurant or diner but didn’t have any waiters,” to which the McDonald’s “crew,” said, “The customers bring the food to their tables and bus those tables themselves. We’ll make it easy on them.”
Placing constraints forces the mind to play.
“Creativity loves constraints.” That’s one of Google’s Innovation Principles according to Marisa Meyer.
5) Fuel Creativity With Diversity
Diversity works. In study after study, diversity has proven to be good for business.
“Diversity” can be taken on so many levels—diversity in age, experience, industry, philosophy and beliefs. But they all work towards creating teams that churn out mind-boggling inventions.
Diversity, for one, means looking outside your industry. There are standard practices from other fields that can be game-changers on your own. Analogous concepts can be found from the left-field that can solve the problems, even revolutionize your industry.
For example, Henry Ford toured a slaughterhouse and watched meat hanging on hooks passing from one station to the next. After the tour, he thanked his guide and said, “I think you may have given me a real good idea.”
Six months later, the vaunted assembly line started chugging in his automobile factory.
Looking at other industries can provide novel ideas and diverse solutions, some of which can be billion-dollar ideas.
“Diversity” can also mean a divergent experience. Many international companies, require their young upshots to get experience abroad. They send them off, not to different departments, but to different regions, cultures and countries—to broaden horizons and deepen knowledge of the business.
A foreign post can be very profitable indeed. It expands and diversifies your knowledge domain so you have more creative content to work with.
Most of all, diversity comes from the very composition of your team. As a leader, aim for a healthy heterogeneity of genders, ages, and nationalities. Protect your team from “group think” where, because members come from the same backgrounds, a group has a ready supply of consensus and conformity.
Often, in this situation, creativity goes out the window. Meetings are conducted in an echo chamber and the group finds it hard to think outside the box...much less innovate.
With team members armed with unique qualities and perspectives, the group has more insights and angles to work with, paving the way for creative thinking and innovation.
With these 5 mantras, your team, under your able leadership, will have all the material, manpower, motivation and model to become an absolute powerhouse.
Not surprisingly, companies find it difficult to form a talented (but affordable) team from today’s labour market. That’s where Kinetic Innovative Staffing comes in. We help companies around the globe hire remote professionals for their growing businesses. We find competent individuals who bring creativity, diversity to your existing teams, and we do that at the fraction of the cost.
Ask us how.
Kinetic Innovative Staffing has been providing hundreds of companies in the Asia Pacific, North America, the Middle East, and Europe with professionals working remotely from the Philippines since 2013. Get in touch to know more.