When we help teams deliver innovation, we follow a three-step framework: 1. Unlock. 2. Unblock. 3. Unleash. Anyone who’s tried to bring something new and valuable into the world knows that creative collaboration isn’t a tidy, linear process. On the contrary, it’s often unruly, inefficient, and (with frustrating frequency) unproductive. Making innovation work takes a concerted effort to push the process forward. And that process starts by unlocking what currently holds it back.
Recognize that your environment is most likely working against you
To flourish over the long term, organizations must constantly create value and develop ideas that matter. Coming up with a portfolio of bold ideas that gets everyone excited is easier said than done, though. Many obstacles stand in the way. In most organizations, the bulk of day-to-day energy goes to operational efficiencies. People aren’t inclined to rock the boat, either, when things are running smoothly already. They also don’t want to share ideas that get ignored. A 2017 Gallup poll found that only 3 in 10 employees strongly agree with the statement that their opinions count at work. For all these reasons, new ideas—good or bad or otherwise—can be extremely elusive.
But you have a mandate to innovate. You’re ready for new ideas. And you have teams of smart, highly skilled, and motivated professionals. All the pieces are seemingly in place—now you just need to unlock the talent already on the team.
Innovation is not a safe space, but it does require a trusting space
Creative collaboration requires something beyond problem-solving and critical thinking skills. It takes trust. Collaboration doesn’t happen until people trust the process enough to stretch themselves. When you’re asking professionals to share new ideas, you’re also asking them to feel comfortable getting vulnerable. They have to trust in the purpose, the process, and the people.
Creative collaboration requires something beyond problem-solving and critical thinking skills. It takes trust.
We help you apply critical concepts like awareness, context, empathy, and sharing to cultivate that trust and, as a result, the most honest and organic vision possible. Our team creates a space where people can stretch themselves intellectually and trust each other enough to reveal frank insights and bold opinions. Debate is welcomed, even encouraged, especially the “creative conflict” that emerges as people catalyze innovation. Remember, friction comes from pushing below the surface to reach the core. If everyone agrees, you’re just putting your team through another “feel good workshop” where there’s more noise than substance.
The good news is that this effort, while uncomfortable, pays off big time, affecting both the bottom line and the upper limits. Remember that 3 in 10 statistic about employees’ opinions counting? Gallup calculated that if you upped that ratio to 6 in 10, you’d tap into far more human potential, resulting in:
- 27% reduction in turnover
- 40% reduction in safety incidents and
- 12% increase in productivity
Note that all these benefits, especially the last two, are crucial to building momentum, sustaining improvement, and nurturing innovation. That’s key, because truly innovative companies don’t reinvent the wheel just once—they accomplish that feat over and over again.
Get ready to explore the unknown
To create a shared vision, you need to do something that doesn’t come naturally to most people, much less most organizations: dive head-first into the unknown. Disagreements are inevitable. That’s something to embrace, however, because it fosters a spirit of curiosity, mutual respect, and a shared commitment to finding the best solution.
To create a shared vision, you need to do something that doesn’t come naturally to most people, much less most organizations: dive head-first into the unknown.
Navigating the unknown requires lots of questions, even more listening, and no small amount of conflict. With guidance, these elements allow your team to understand complex, diverse viewpoints and find the consensus within. The core truths that emerge from this process deliver invaluable insight into the larger needs being addressed through innovation.
Unlock a climate conducive to taking intellectual risks
We have fine-tuned a process to create the conditions under which intellectual and emotional risk-taking doesn’t just happen, it flourishes. In order to call up effective collaborations, your teams need to feel psychologically free to contribute new ideas without worrying about egos. Once your teams feel free to stop playing it safe, you’ll be amazed at how much innovation emerges.
Before you get into the technology, you need to harness the humans
Here are some exercises that teams can use to create a meaningful vision:
Go beyond the ice breaker. What drives your team? What are their core values? Explore and share what animates everyone to connect team members on a more meaningful level. It can be a difficult (and delicate) process getting people to open up. But it’s also a prerequisite for innovative thinking.
Get comfortable with discomfort. Innovation comes from someplace outside your comfort zone, but it’s hard to step outside familiar ways of thinking. Guided experimentation leads your team into unfamiliar territory where they can abandon preconceived notions and tap into new corners of their thought process.
Get to the other side. Successful entrepreneurs occupy the same psychological space. We get you there too by teaching your team how to turn trepidation into exhilaration, from overcoming analysis paralysis to finding clarity through action. Along the way, the relationships and strengths that develop turn a once-cautions team into one that innovates with confidence.
Unlocking your team’s vision begins by adopting the right philosophy and applying the correct approach. Outside perspectives could not be more important. That’s why forward-thinking companies rely on a skilled facilitator or innovation manager to guide teams into the unknown. Let’s do it together.