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Innovation and How to Inspire its Spirit

I am sure we’ve all had times where we feel like we’re just going through the motions, watching the clock tick the hours down, and feeling like there is something inexplicably missing in our lives. What was once new and exciting has now become familiar and routine. And while the routine may be comfortable, you may feel yourself yearning for something more.

Or maybe you feel that management really doesn’t listen to the input of their employees, and are more interested in maintaining the status quo. Or that the separation between departments is creating division within your organization while at the same costing you time and customers as productivity and efficiency goes down. The possibilities may be endless, but they all have one thing in common: a need for change. 

How many times, in these situations, have you wondered if there is a better way? Or maybe you even thought to yourself, there HAS to be better way. 

I’m sure we’ve all had those thoughts, at one time or another, and as soon as you find yourself having them, you should take note. These thoughts are the first step towards innovation.

Identifying the Need for Change

Innovation starts with identifying that the way things are currently being done is just not working anymore. You need to acknowledge the NEED for change, which is exactly what you did when you began wondering if there is a better way. Innovation is driven by that notion, that underlying feeling, and it also ties into previous concepts I’ve talked about, such as Leading Change

This realization can be inspired by anything, from something as simple as an everyday observation, or a sudden ‘Eureka!’ moment where everything becomes clear. Innovation can also be seen as driving progress, as there has been continuous innovation ever since our simian ancestors first picked up stones to smash open hard-to-crack nuts. 

Empowering Employees

Innovation does not exist in a vacuum either. A new and novel idea can be taken by others and expanded or adapted to many other applications previously unforeseen by the creator. As an organization, it is important to develop a cooperative and open atmosphere where innovation and creativity is encouraged.

But innovation, like creativity, is an often intangible concept that escapes easy categorization and metrics. How exactly can you measure or test the level of creativity in an office? Or, for that matter, how would you even define creativity?

And besides, not everyone is creative minded, or even interested in the creative process at all. We all have our strengths, and for every stereotypically absent minded and eccentric ‘creative type’, there are others who have mastered the far more concrete and measurable worlds of numbers or accounting.

The overall goal should be to create an environment conducive to innovative and unorthodox thinking. Managers should empower their employees by encouraging their suggestions and ideas, especially since the employees are often on the frontlines in terms of customer interaction, and can speak on that first hand experience that higher-ups may not have insight into. It should be a free flowing, democratic process, where the importance is on ideas, not on seniority or status. 

Creating Time and Space for Team Success

Brainstorming sessions can also be a powerful tool in inspiring innovation, but be careful to mix group work with respecting individual space, as different personality styles have their preferred levels of social interaction. If you want the best of both worlds, you need to respect that the thinkers and movers have different communicative styles and provide each with the appropriate time, space, and levels of social interaction to maximize their levels of success. You need to have a happy medium where everybody’s needs and styles are recognized for the best possible group harmony.

Incentive and bonus programs may also be appropriate, but be careful to create and maintain an atmosphere of friendly competition where each individual’s success still contributes to the greater success of the overall team. You don’t want the incentives and prizes to overshadow your original goals, it’s imperative that they must remain the focal point. 

Vision and Commitment

Inspiring innovation isn’t about changing a few things here and there, it requires vision and commitment. It is something that you do everyday, it’s that quest for constant improvement, that continuous search for a better way. There is no point where you can sit back and comfortably say “I’ve done it. I’ve inspired innovation” because the moment you do, you stop innovating. We all want to inspire, create, and innovate. That feeling isn’t new. But we need to have that feeling inspire us to do something, to go from thinking to action, and that really is the first step to something new, something exciting. And really, it is all up to you.