Hey business leaders: Are people on your team comfortable putting their hand up so to speak and sharing ideas freely?
What are you doing to encourage them to offer up new ways of doing things?
Clients often tell me they wish their team was more creative and developed more innovative ways to solve problems or take advantage of new opportunities. Leaders I work with often feel like the responsibility of coming up with new ideas or solving a current problem rests primarily on their shoulders.
I recall a meeting I had in the fall of 2019 with a large Winnipeg company. They told me one of their biggest challenges was getting employees to share their ideas more openly. Too often in meetings people would shut down an idea by saying things like 'We tried this 10 years ago and it didn't work.'
How often do you hear people say something similar in your organization?
In that meeting we discussed the opportunity to promote an environment that encouraged:
In my research for this blog post I found a really good article called Good Questions Encourage Creative Thinking by Nagesh Belludi
Nagesh shares that creative thinkers ask open-ended, accommodating, and exploratory lead-in questions such as:
In my quest to seem ‘more’ smarter (trademark), I am going to once again refer to the Harvard Business Review.
In the article, Rebecca Shambaugh refers to the need to ‘facilitate spaghetti throwing’ (I love the reference). She notes that research reveals that an overwhelming majority of executives — 94% — are unhappy with the innovative performance of their company. She further states that leaders need to facilitate experimentation and encourage people to see what sticks and what doesn’t. To do this, leaders not only have to ask people to share outside-of-box-thinking, but to also lead by example.
Lastly, I am going to refer once again to the Forbes article I noted last week (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/living-above-line-building-succession-plan-scott-donald/?trackingId=xKl1D8e0u04gH4B9naMjiQ%3D%3D).
In her article Three Reasons Why The Best Leaders Ask Rather Than Tell, author Sinive Seely notes that asking opens the door to new ideas and possibilities.
“Asking open-ended questions requires both the leader and their team to dig deep for answers to problems that have no obvious solutions.”
A common theme I see is organizations tending to rely on what worked in the past. This year has pretty clearly shown us that we can’t rely on what may have worked in the past. We are being dragged kicking and screaming into a new pandemic reality that demands we tackle these new challenges head on with new ideas and better ways of doing business. While 2020 has been horrible and devastating on so many levels, I am encouraged by the incredible amount of creativity and innovation we are seeing from people. I have read about and spoken with so many professionals who have come up with new and better ways to run their business, help customers, earn new customers, communicate their message and just do what they do, but do it even better.
Let’s make the best of what we can control. And we can control asking good questions and inviting our teams to share their ideas and suggestions.