TGIM: How Do You Drive Innovation?

12 Dec

Creative BrainstormingIt’s Monday, you know what that means! Here is another installment of our TGIM series, or Thank Goodness It’s Monday.  Each Monday our posts will focus on employee engagement and we hope to hear your thoughts on Twitter using the #TGIM hashtag or with a reply to us @SageHRMS.

Creative brainstorming is not something managers can just demand from their employees and then expect greatness. It’s much more complicated than that. For one, people work in different ways – what inspires one employee may be worthless to another. But if collective strategy sessions are the way to go, how can managers forge an environment that is conducive to innovative thought?

Inc. magazine contributor Jeff Haden argues that promoting creativity involves reconfiguring the thought process. Instead of viewing a brainstorming session as an attempt at product development or innovation, look at it as a matter of problem-solving. What is the issue at hand, and what can be done to improve it? Furthermore, don’t limit your questions to deductive reasoning. Be imaginative. Ask yourself “What if?” How would a product or market be affected by a sudden change? What if your product or service was altered in this specific way?

Use these questions as a guide in your brainstorming session. As a manager, you should allow creative individuals to drive the conversation and come up with most of the ideas. Your role is to guide the thought process through questions and comments. Remain uninvolved in the conversation, but listen carefully.

In all likelihood, your employees are very smart and very creative. But their true potential will shine only when they are free to think, Haden adds. Yet this is a difficult environment to develop, especially in a workplace with hierarchical structures and managerial responsibilities.

Managers need to encourage a variety of ideas, even bad ones, and to never, under any circumstance, let an employee regret speaking up. There are three reasons for this.

  1. He or she will be discouraged from offering up additional ideas in the future.
  2. They will be less confident in their creative capacity.
  3. Ideas that clearly don’t work may still be a source of inspiration for a better one.

In other words, what one employee offers as a solution may be the spark of true ingenuity from someone else.

Also, when employees glance at you in search for feedback, don’t say anything. Look to others for additional input, and allow the conversation to proceed without authoritative fears or inhibitions to thought.

What are some other ways managers can encourage creative thought in brainstorming sessions?

 Let us know what you think on Twitter by tweeting with the hashtag #TGIM, or reply to us @SageHRMS.

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