7 Ways to Create a Culture of Innovation

Photo by Terry Wha

How do you help those around you tap into their creative mojo?   I've asked myself this question several times in the past few months, looking for ways to motivate my team and generate true innovation.  The answers, although sometimes elusive, have been fascinating and easy to apply.

So how do you do it?

Let me be clear in saying that I am not the CEO of a corporation.  I am the team leader for a small group of educators who work very hard and try to deliver content every single day.  I admire them and support them, and they know it.  This forms the foundation for the direction that I point them towards.  If they felt that I did not care, the tips I am about to share might fall on hollow ears.  On to the points of application:

  • "Model the good" (3 John 11)  This New Testament quote holds true for an individual who attempts to lead a team.  Your group needs to know that you care enough about yourself to care for them.  Modeling "good behavior" is essential, be it your time management skills, your virtue, or your ability to do what they do.  I cannot evaluate my teachers if I do not practice good teaching skills on my own.

  • Raise the bar.  Making statements such as, "We can be the best team in our division," or "You have what it takes to be innovators in your field," raises the bar.  Lift the expectations and you'll get more from your team.

  • Monitor and share creative moments.  Last week, our team was given the task of looking at our work and then sharing one creative action that we'd try in the following week.  We then shared these with each other.  A small step but one which few departments do on a regular basis.

  • Pioneer one new initiative. Choose something doable, then go after it with full force.  A project, conference, or product gives the group something to work on together.  Encourage your group to see themselves as pioneers in the field. 

  • Get off site once a year.  Go out for dinner, attend a workshop or try out an executive retreat.  The value of going off site far outweighs the cost of doing so.  It may be a bit scary at first, but go for something that folks are comfortable and then you can branch out into the more ambitious team-building events that make every group bond on a deeper level.

  • Talk every single day.  My group is small and our facility is compact so it's easy to talk every day.  If your team is spread out or in different geographical locations, find a way to talk every day.  Use email, Skype or Jott, but communicate every day.

  • Work on your craft together.  If your team is in sales, talk about the art of selling.  If you are an engineering team, find ways to train within your field.  If you are teachers, share your successes in the classroom.  Your team needs to know that you are still working on your game too.

  • Have fun.  Share stories, give each other the business and celebrate success.  Laughter brings even the staunchest of folks together.  Boring people rarely generate creative ideas.