How to Re-Engage Team Innovation

We're facing scarcity head-on these days, along with an emotional roller coaster, a lack of energy, focus, resources, and an urgent need to do less with more. While this environment may encourage innovative solutions, the intensity of the demands is draining and depleting.

Now more than ever we need to increase trust and safety (psychological safety) on our teams to stimulate innovative solutions. Because scarcity is a trigger for innovation dis-ease.

Do you recognize any of the symptoms listed below?

Symptom #1: Crises Emerge Seemingly Out of the Blue

Okay, there are a lot of crises emerging out of the blue right now. But look back a couple of weeks ago. Have you been startled that problems arise out of nowhere?  Like there were no warning signs - yet no one on your team seems surprised except you? Yet you appear to be the only one responding to the crisis and initiating solutions?

Most everyone in your organization is an expert at something, and you want them fully engaged to apply their skills to the solution. Chances are a lot of them saw the crisis emerging, but the warning signs didn’t make their way up to you.

Try a Team Takeaway

Problems are solved when you make it safe for people to speak up and communicate openly. This requires their trust in you and one another.

⭐ At the end of team meetings, invite everyone to say a word or phrase that sums up their takeaway.

⭐ Lead the way and share your own word or phrase in a way that helps others speak up and take risks. For instance: I am excited – concerned – puzzled – hopeful – encouraged – confused – surprised. This will help increase the feeling that it’s safe to express feelings and concerns – even when it's bad news.

Symptom #2: You’re Hearing Crickets in Your Team Meetings

Is everyone nodding politely, to almost everything, almost all of the time?  At first, this might feel awesome, like everyone’s on board and in alignment with your thinking. But suddenly you realize there’s a notable lack of ideas, debate and disagreement—despite your best efforts. No one is offering new solutions, and the accountability keeps ending up with you instead of your competent and well-paid staff members.

Assign a Devil\'s Advocate

If you want people to take risks and speak up, whether or not they agree, then assign the role of Devil’s Advocate to a different person for each meeting.

⭐ The sole job of the Devil's Advocate is to ask the WHY-WHY-WHY behind the ideas, decisions and discussions. This will give everyone in the meeting permission to speak up. 

⭐ As this becomes more comfortable, your staff will perceive that alternative thoughts are welcomed, and the voices that do not represent the majority are heard, needed and valued.

Symptom Three: Where is the Love? 

Do you sense an overall apathy or malaise in your team meetings—or performance in general?

This often is a symptom of a feedback drought—specifically, a lack of feedback from you to your team members. Your feedback is a gift of data to motivate positive behavior forward. High-performing teams provide more positive feedback to their peers – nearly six times more positive feedback than average teams. (Harvard Business Review)

This has to be a priority of yours, despite everything else on your plate. Because positive performance deserves positive feedback, or eventually the behavior will not be repeated. This applies to our personal life, too. (Feedback: Your Low-Energy and High-YIeld Investment )

5 to 1 Feedback Ratio

⭐If you want to spark innovation, begin by thinking of a colleague, business partner, board member or direct report with whom you’d like to have a better relationship.

⭐ Now, once a week, for the next three weeks, provide this person ONE piece of specific and positive feedback about something they’ve done that you appreciate, admire or value.

With any or all of these innovation interventions, I'm nearly certain you will be positively surprised by the results.

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