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How to foster innovative thinking in your team | UB | Main Region

How to foster innovative thinking in your team

Collaboration amongst employees


Innovative thinking can make all the difference to your business’ success, but how you arm your team with the tools necessary to challenge the status quo? And how do you cultivate an innovative culture when a team is working in different locations?

An intentional focus on creating a space where team members feel like they can be brave and challenge the company norm is necessary, whether that’s in a physical or virtual space. It is up to leaders to encourage a certain vulnerability among your team, while ensuring that they feel safe to do so. 

10 ways to encourage team innovation

No one can predict the future, which is why successful organisations create workplaces where innovation can thrive. Following are our tips on how to foster innovation in a team. With these, you’ll help your employees feel safe to share new ideas and thinking.  

1. Encourage interaction between departments 

In many organisations, and in a hybrid work environment, it can be easy for different departments to become segregated and shut off from each other. Such a detached environment can make it difficult for employees to fully appreciate how the different business functions come together as a whole to make things work. 
 
Encouraging members of different departments to come together, virtually or physically, now and again can help. Whether through a formal set agenda to uncover insights from all sides, or just through a less formal team catch up, bringing different departments together can allow for a structured, or organic, flow of information and ideas.  

2. Enabling interaction during hybrid work 

The fact that some of your team might be working in the office, and some from home probably won’t change anytime soon. The time is well and truly here for leaders to understand how to best manage a split workforce.  

Creating moments for innovation in this environment must be intentional. Organise regular meetings with cross-functional teams as well as standard business functions and ensure to create a safe space for sharing of ideas. Putting some restraints (think budget, or time) around any problem-solving activity can actually engender creativity rather than hinder and give teams a path to follow.  

3. Encourage reverse mentoring 

Reverse mentoring is the process of teaming up senior and entry-level employees so that both gain new skills and knowledge from each other. Although a senior employee may have many years of business expertise and industry knowledge to pass on, an entry-level staff member might have valuable insights to share on new technologies or how to appeal to their demographic. Or perhaps an entry-level employee has a different perspective on certain aspects of the business and a fresh way of thinking that could be shared. 
 
Combining the knowledge and different perspectives of entry-level and senior staff, can lead to innovative ideas begin bubbling up between them. 

4. Step away from the workplace 

New environments, new ways of collaborating or simply standing rather than sitting during a meeting can all help with thinking through problems differently.  

Stepping away from our usual BAU environments can also allow team members to avoid the usual distractions that can help encourage those involved to focus on a single problem to hand.  

5. Encourage learning by mistakes 

When innovative thinking and new ideas are encouraged, there is inevitably a certain degree of risk-taking. It’s important to embrace the failing side of trying different things. When members of your team take risks and get things wrong, be sure to let them know that mistakes are okay and should be learnt from. Focus on constructive criticism and ongoing learning, and your team will quickly understand that with some carefully calculated risk, their new ideas can still come to life. 

6. Welcome every idea 

Putting a creative idea out there in front of your colleagues and superiors can be daunting, so to boost the confidence of your team members make sure you always welcome all ideas that come your way, no matter how out of the box they may be. 
 
If a team member proposes an idea that simply isn’t right for the business, don’t dismiss it outright. Instead, make a concerted effort to be enthusiastic and talk through the concept. By fulling exploring the idea and discussing it you may find that it triggers new thoughts and ideas that your business could well utilise. This will also allow you to explain why certain elements might not be right for the business right now. 

7. Make brainstorming a regular occurrence 

Brainstorming doesn’t have to be restricted to specific projects. Sometimes it’s helpful to practice group brainstorming to discuss general ways in which your business could improve. For instance, you could organise a group session away from the workplace to break the day-to-day routine and mindset of your team and stimulate creativity. Encourage members of different teams in the business to come together and make sure everyone has an opportunity to speak so that quieter voices can also share their thoughts. 
 
Set an agenda and share the discussion points with the team ahead of time so they have time to prepare ideas to bring to the table. For instance, you might ask them to come up with five things the company could improve or one way their department could be more productive. Encourage ideas both big and small – a suggestion for a new coffee machine in the kitchen may not seem as ground-breaking as an idea for a new line of products, but both can have a positive impact on the business and your staff in different ways. 

8. Be influential not controlling 

A controlling leader does not stimulate creativity, so influence, don’t control, particularly when it comes to ideas. Resist pushing forward your ideas over your team’s, particularly if they don’t willingly agree that your idea is the best. Don’t keep throwing new ideas their way either – give them a few suggestions and encourage them to come up with their own. 

9. Reward and incentivise innovative thinking 

Encouraging innovative thinking can help employees share new ideas. After all, just because they haven’t so far shared any ideas, it doesn’t mean they don’t have them. If you think an incentive would encourage staff to speak up about new ideas, consider a rewards system to show your appreciation for the creativity of all members of staff. 

10. Action good ideas, no matter who came up with them 

Sometimes ideas only get actioned when they’ve come from a senior member of staff, leaving entry-level team members to feel disheartened that their ideas aren’t taken seriously. Whenever you hear a good idea, be sure to action it in some way and let the member of staff know about it. Not only will they feel empowered and inspired to continue offering up new ideas, but they’ll be more confident to speak up with any future ideas, too. 

Encourage creativity and innovative thinking in your business today 

Knowing how to promote creative and innovative thinking in your company and foster innovation in a team takes time and effort. There are a lot of dynamics at play, but leaders who create a culture and environment where innovative solutions and creative ideas are encouraged will be the ones who see their team flourish, and in turn, their business succeed and thrive in the new world of work. 

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