One of the biggest, present day challenges for organizations of all sizes is innovation. In fact a large number (65%+) cite innovation to be one of their toughest strategic challenges. Yet, if you get it right, innovative companies, on average, grow 13% annually as compared to other companies who grew only 5%.
Is it worth your time to look closely at what barriers might exist in driving innovation at your organization?
One of the questions I get from executives most often is, “how can we encourage creativity and build an innovative culture across all functions? One of the first steps in fostering this kind of culture in your organization is for you to take the ‘brutally-honest’ mirror test.
As leaders, I don’t think we realize how big of an impact our word choice (as well as our body language) has on our teams and the people whom we interact with daily. When we inadvertently shut down ideas and creativity, it’s likely our people will stop producing fruit altogether. As depicted in the image at the top of the post, lack of water has sucked the life out of the trees.
Don’t let this happen on your watch. Our words do one of two things – they either build up or tear down. Our choice.
We often conduct brainstorming sessions on business model innovation with clients. Prior to kick-off, we typically establish pre-session guidelines that include removing word phrases that ‘close doors’ and inserting ‘open door’ phrases that encourage flow of ideas.
Here are 5 examples:
- Instead of “We’ve tried that before…” try “There’s always room for improvement.”
- Instead of “It’s alright in theory…” try “Think of the possibilities.”
- Instead of “It’s too radical a change…” try “Let’s hear more ideas on that topic.”
- Instead of “It’s too complicated and hard…” try “We can be the first.”
- Instead of “It’s too risky…” try How might we learn more about that idea and its impact on…”
The idea is to change the tone from the top down. Word choice is a small step forward in turning a culture in the right direction. Word choice and tone will reverberate and domino its way through the organization. The impact is what matters. Everybody is designed with an inherent drive to create or add value– when you open the door and encourage the flow, watch the fruit grow.
So, let me ask you to be brutally honest on this topic.
What kind of wake are you leaving behind you when the meeting concludes?
After the doors close and teams disperse back to their cubicles, are they inspired to dig deeper into their creative wells to solve problems or are they parched, withered, and shut down?
The late Robin Williams said it best when he said, “no matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”
It’s a choice we get to make.