April 12, 2023 4 Min Read
Foster An Environment Of Innovation
Steve Jobs once said, “If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.”
With this in mind, let’s talk about innovation, creative solutions, and innovative business environments.
Innovation At Its Core
Innovation is crucial for creating value, solving customer problems, and maintaining a competitive advantage in a volatile marketplace. However, it’s not always easy to achieve innovative success. According to studies, over 70% of product launches result in failure and only 6% of executives are satisfied with their company’s innovation performance. While organizations often invest a ton of resources, money on the topic, often the huge investment of time and effort is for naught. According to Coach Dawid, the trouble is that innovation can’t simply be forced upon teams or magically expected to occur out of thin air. Leaders must both model innovation themselves and foster an environment that nurtures innovation.
An Innovation Environment
Coach Dawid reminds us that because innovation always comes with risks, and success is never guaranteed, a workplace without psychological safety will not be innovative for long, or at least won’t reach its innovative potential. It’s the ability to experiment and fail without major punishment that empowers individuals and teams to take calculated risks and operate at the edge of invention and creativity. Leaders must create that sense of psychological safety not just through words, but through infrastructure, support tools and action.
As a leader, leverage your influence to empower your teams and encourage an innovation process that involves user empathy, problem definition, ideation of potential solutions, prototyping options, and testing. Innovation requires creative minds, collaboration, time, and many indispensable steps and questions to consider. Never approach innovation haphazardly. Coach Dawid believes that even if innovation does sometimes seem to pop up randomly, it usually fizzles out (or is never shared) if the individual or team is fearful of negative repercussions. The job of a leader is to thoughtfully and intentionally create a culture that values, supports and rewards innovation—as well as failure.
Additionally, a productive innovation environment combines the right people and process with a concentrated focus on the customer or client. This includes individuals with a growth mindset who are passionate explorers, curious problem solvers, and “builders.” It is likewise important to recognize the power of collective effort. Most innovations are created through networks or teams with resilience and diverse skill sets working together, sometimes butting heads, overcoming hurdles creatively and ultimately transcending constraints.
One basis to true innovation is a market focus, acting on what the market tells you is the problem to be solved. Good market intelligence is vital, but alone it isn’t enough. You also need the creative power of your employees, mixed with psychological safety, the right processes and tools, and a generally collaborative environment for success. Corporate silos are where ideas and potential go to die.
How does a leader foster an environment of innovation? The starting point is to cultivate an innovative mindset for yourself that demonstrates behaviors necessary for creative energy to flow.
While this may sound arbitrary or inaccessible to some readers, there are ample practices that can help move the creative process along. One such example includes making time in your daily routine for quiet reflection and thinking and keeping a journal of ideas to explore. If you experience a creative block, you have a journal of unexplored ideas that you can refer to. Sometimes an idea may not be pertinent or feasible in the moment, but weeks or even years later may come alive in a novel context. Executive Coach Dawid recommends that you expand your lens by adopting a beginner’s mindset which means asking frequent and non-judgmental questions, exploring different perspectives, and challenging initial assumptions.
It may seem unrelated, but creative energy flows from a position of good mental health and well-being. Make sure that you get enough sleep and rest. Resist the urge to forgo recharging when you get busy or stressed, and instead indulge in doing things that are fun, energizing, and joyful. Positivity is contagious, and the more you explore, the more you learn. You also model that healthful behavior to others around you.
Remember to schedule regular check-ins with collaborators. Check-ins are an effective tool that allows you to understand your team’s needs, concerns, and achievements in real time—often exponentially more effective and relevant than a once-a-year performance review. They encourage honesty, foster trust, and create a dependable and open-minded support system.
Foster An Environment Of Innovation
With a leadership style that demonstrates innovation behaviors, you can work on creating a space for your team or project members where innovation can flourish. It begins with trust. Trust builds patience and allows listening, both of which are critical when it comes to innovation. You can cultivate trust through authenticity, transparency, and keeping promises. Make it safe for the team to take leaps of faith and remember that innovation success is built on mistakes and failures. Sharing ideas with one another, amid psychological safety, and challenging others to think critically will stimulate the innovative process and set the tone for challenging the status quo and learning from those around you. Without challenging each other’s ideas, there is no room for development or growth. You can course-correct as needed using a stop/start/continue framework to adapt yourself, the team, and the idea.
Be the agent of change. If you are interested in becoming a better innovator or are a leader looking to foster a more robust innovation environment, consider a 1:1 coaching session with a TaskHuman coach like Dawid to explore the skills and behaviors behind successful innovation and the step-by-step key to creating a productive and engaging innovation environment in your workplace. Most are just scratching the surface of innovation. If you’re struggling with how to get started, TaskHuman coaches are here to help provide clarity and actionable guidance.
Book your session with Dawid Wiacek or find another leadership coach to help you today!