8 Tips for Spurring Innovation

Steven Johnson is an author credited with the keen ability to examine the intersection of science, technology and personal experience in his work. In 2010, he did the same on stage in his TED Talk: Where Good Ideas Come From. In it, he said, “If you look at history, innovation doesn't come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect.” Never has a truer word been spoken. Okay, maybe that’s stretching it; but he’s right.

If you want your people to be innovative, you have to create the right environment, and here are 8 tips to help you out.

Do you want your employees to be more innovative? Yes, of course. Who doesn’t? However, spurring innovative thinking and action is not easy, otherwise everyone would be creating IPhones, Google, and Post-its.

  1. Encourage failure. You know the story about Thomas Edison. In his own words (or close enough), he says 'I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.' Truly innovative people don’t have just one great idea that’s a success; they have many failures that lead to innovation, and Edison is the perfect example of that. Encourage failure by allowing room for and rewarding it; the great ideas will come.

  2. Eliminate the silos. People are more creative when they’re able to brainstorm with and bounce ideas off other people. A great way is to organize small group meetings with a focus on discussions of issues, trends, opportunities, etc. The design and innovation consulting firm, IDEO, does this by grouping together some of its brightest minds for 60-90 minutes to kick around ideas. The result is not only ingenious thought, but also an energy for follow-through that’s inspirational.

  3.  Favor cross-pollination. While small groups are great, bringing in different and new points of view can work wonders. To accomplish this, consider bringing in people from outside the ‘usual’ team by inviting others to join your brain storm from other areas of the company and even partnering organizations or groups.

  4. Breakdown hierarchy. Do you have a problem with employees being silent once the ‘boss’ has had his/her say? Establishing ground rules on how creative ideas will flow is a great start. Make sure everyone has the opportunity speak, while facilitated by a moderator who knows how to encourage free flow without stifling creativity.

  5.  Make it urgent. Do you operate under the notion that great ideas come after weeks, months or years of internal searching, researching, and pots of coffee? While pots of coffee aren’t a bad idea, tight timeframes actually turn up the heat and the focus, and can result in some pretty great stuff.

  6.  Keep detail out of it. Don’t begin with limitations right from the get-go. If you begin a brainstorm by limiting the end product in shape, size, color, and functionality, you limit its possibilities.

  7. Get innovative with rewards. Reward participation, effort, and creativity—and do it creatively. Compensation doesn’t always have to be in the form of money. Find out what your people love and surprise them with your own out-of-the-box thinking.

  8. Have fun! Creativity comes in different forms. So, have fun while you’re waiting for it. All work and no play does make Johnny a dull and uncreative boy.

What are some of the ways you spur innovation in your team? Send me your ideas!