02 Feb Stepping our way to innovation
Yesterday morning I met with a recent client, to check in on progress with one of their key engagement challenges – encouraging staff to innovate.
For anyone that’s been tasked to ‘innovate’, that’s a very scary word. It sounds like such a big task, especially for those who don’t think of themselves as particularly inventive, or ‘ideas people’. In your mind you’re asking – ‘what do you want me to innovate about?’, you’re wondering when you’re going to find the time amongst your BAU, and you’re weighing up the risks of failure. There is a huge perceived fear there.
Over coffee, We spoke about the importance of breaking down the innovation process into steps that require minimal risk from an employee perspective. It reminded me of David Kelly’s (IDEO) example in his TED talk ‘How to Build your Creative Confidence’ – people who said they weren’t creative, when guided through a process built confidence at each stage and left thinking about themselves as creative. It’s the same with my personal fitness goals – I thought I would never run 10km, but with my personal trainer coaching me and setting me a program of incremental steps, I ran 10km within 5 weeks. The step by step approach completely shifted my mindset.
Tactics such as tournaments or games are just some of the many ways to create this step by step guidance in organisations – taking something that seems scary to staff and reframing it as a challenge or an adventure. You can start by asking staff to post an article to yammer, or answer a question as a first step requiring very little effort and risk for the employee. At the next stage they put in a little more effort and take a little more risk, with their increasing confidence pushing them on and on. These approaches work because they appeal to employees intrinsic motivations: by opting in they’re exercising autonomy, and the stepped approach enables them to build competence and confidence, as they learn from each other. And competitions and tournaments, as well as using Enterprise Social Networking platforms, increases relatedness and community.
Not calling it ‘innovation’ can help too. Give the initiative a name that clearly aligns it with an established organisational purpose: delighting the customer, finding better ways to work, or finding new revenue streams.
And bottom line – make it enjoyable. Ultimately people do what they want, so make it something people want to do.