More than ever, we know how valuable a genuinely innovative team can be. Organizations that weren't flexible enough to find solutions to 2020's problems have suffered and closed their doors. On the other hand, agile, innovative, and quick-thinking organizations have had a much easier time navigating this year's challenges.
Changes are happening fast—not only in our economy but also:
- In how customers communicate and set their expectations,
- In businesses adopting new processes and technology platforms,
- In the ways people communicate with one another, and
- In the types of resources people need and use.
Because of this, flexibility and innovative growth are the keys to developing thriving businesses in the years to come.
If you're looking around at your team thinking, "Well, this isn't us," don't worry! Innovation and flexibility aren't innate traits that we either have or don't have. They are teachable, learnable skills.
To help put your organization on the right track in 2021 and beyond, try these five tips.
1. Encourage honest, open feedback
Growth can't happen without collaboration, and true collaboration results in the best your organization and team have to offer. But that can't happen without a system designed to encourage and nurture open and constructive feedback. This atmosphere often comes from the top down.
Consider how you, as a leader, ask for and receive feedback:
- Do you ever ask your team's advice?
- Do you ask for their input when developing new processes or reviewing old ones?
- Do you encourage their feedback on projects?
- Do you celebrate their input?
Take note of how you demonstrate the value of open, constructive feedback. Then work to encourage it in areas where it's lacking. Remember to train new employees to expect feedback and to feel confident enough to give their own. Make time in meetings to discuss ideas as a group and ask each person's opinion. Single out people who seem shy and help bring them out of their shells (and the same goes for those who are incredibly confident—single them out!).
The goal is to work open feedback into everyone's expectations about how things are developed and created within your company. When people expect it, it's much easier to receive it, and it feels a lot less scary to give it.
2. Professional development
One way to nurture innovation is to make an effort to stop employees from stagnating in their career development. Offer opportunities for them to learn new skills, to expose themselves to new ways of thinking, and to move forward.
Yes, it will help deepen the resources they can offer your organization, but it will also foster employee loyalty, engagement, and satisfaction. Professional development adds value for everyone involved, and your team's productivity and strength will demonstrate that.
3. Psychological safety
For innovation to thrive, there needs to be a level of psychological safety within your organization. Employees need to feel free to try new things, to fail, and to try again. Fear of failure is one of the main reasons things fail in the first place—because people were never able to try.
Train your employees to try new things. Develop their confidence and encourage their ideas. This atmosphere will foster excitement and work against the age-old resistance to change.
4. Employee empowerment
One way to encourage growth and innovation is to provide employees with a strong sense of ownership over their contributions. Train your managers to empower their team to take the initiative. Does someone have a new technology they think would be an asset to the company? Encourage them to prove to you why their idea is a good one.
When employees feel like their work is guided by their inspiration, knowledge, and expertise, they'll be more likely to put more energy into what they're doing. Ownership leads to excellence.
5. A values system
Review your values. Far too often, organizations' values look something like this: integrity, dedication, and excellence. If that sounds familiar, then you've got some work to do.
Develop a values system that genuinely reflects your goal of driving growth, encouraging development, being challenged, taking individual ownership, and pushing the goal post farther each year.
Your values are the road map to your company’s future. They inform how you approach challenges and navigate difficult situations. Give them the thought they deserve and encourage your employees to take them to heart. As your team develops around these concepts and begins to identify with the values you create, you'll see the magic that happens when a team is empowered, driving growth, and taking ownership of your company's future. It can be a beautiful thing.
Keep working at it. Keep coming back to it. And watch your organization thrive.
Photo by ammentorp
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