To spur innovation, it takes more than promoting outside-the-box thinking. You need to cultivate a spirit of openness and inventiveness among your staff.
Start by riveting everyone’s attention on a simple goal. Summarize in one sentence what you want to achieve—and keep the focus on that end point. Once you unveil the goal, don’t change it.
Encourage creative thinking by guiding your team to collect information from a range of sources. Solicit input from customers. Observe your competitors. Experiment with the latest technology. Make sure everyone isn’t gathering data from the same place.
When you interact with customers, focus on negatives. What annoys them about your product or service? What’s the most painful or frustrating part of their job? What tools do they wish they had that they currently lack?
By identifying such frictions, you lay the groundwork to innovate.
Ask a series of outlandish questions to stoke employees’ excitement and ignite their imagination.
Examples: What would we invent if money weren’t an object? What’s the best innovation we could develop with almost no money or resources at our disposal?
Instruct your employees to present their proposals in entertaining ways: a clip from a movie or a diagram of the prototype.
Using fun communication vehicles generates enthusiasm and forces employees to dream up simple ways to convey the seed of their idea.
—Adapted from “How Can You Be More Innovative at Work?,” Gijs van Wulfen, www.linkedin.com.