10 Random Ideas To Encourage Innovation

For the past several posts I have written on the idea of creating organizational cultures that encourage innovative leaders.  I firmly believe it is a mistake of leaders to feel they can force innovation or even create innovative people.  Innovation, in its purest form, means change, and while change can be forced upon people, the best changes, the kind that make an organization excellent, come from the heart of a person.  Great innovation comes from the gut.  You cannot legislate those kinds of changes.

Even if that is true, however, there are things leaders can do even in a culture of innovation to encourage team members to be more innovative.  Here are a 10 random ideas to help.  Feel free to add some that have worked in your organization.

  • Get away from the office routinely as a team.  There is something about a change in surroundings that encourages a change in thought.
  • Have a brainstorming session with open-ended questions.  (For an example our staff did recently read THIS POST.)
  • Reward new ideas/Recognize new thoughts/Celebrate success – People will want to be a part of it.
  • Encourage thinking time.  (Read a couple posts about that HERE and HERE.)
  • Have times together as a team that are simply fun.
  • Remove obstacles to innovative thought, such as communication barriers between team members and management.
  • Talk about current culture and how changes can impact your organization’s culture.
  • Be accessible.  It encourages team members to share new ideas with you more often.
  • Welcome diversity of thoughts and opinions, even if they are different than yours.
  • Set innovation goals, such as “make changes to the website next year this time.”

    I encourage you to innovate and come up with better ideas than these and share them with us here.

    (For more thoughts on innovation, read that category HERE.)

    What to do if employees don’t respond?

    My recent post asking the question, “Does Your Organization Produce Innovative Leaders or Managed Followers?” had automatic, built-in questions I anticipated receiving after the post, so I prepared an answer in advance.  Indeed the most common question is basically:

    If you have an environment conducive to produce innovative leaders, but still people do not take initiative on their own, what do you do?

    This is a great question.   I would encourage you to survey your employees to make sure you have the environment you think you have.  If this is not realistic, perhaps you could bring in an outside perspective, such as a consultant or a friend who knows your organization well and understands these principles and get his or her perspective.  Make sure you are open to honest feedback.  Once you have done that, ask these questions about the employees who refuse to take initiative:

    • Do they have the skill required for the task you are asking them to do?
    • Do they have the resources required for the task?
    • Do they trust that they are in the environment you claim to have?
    • Do they trust the leadership of the organization?
    • Are your expectations realistic?

    If all those answers are yes, then you are forced to ask:

    • Are they are good fit for the organization or their position?
    • Can they do what you want or expect them to do?

    It is at this point leaders often have to make difficult decisions regarding a person’s future with the organization, but usually these type decisions end up being best for the organization and the individual.  Many times an employee  already senses their inability to live up to the potential you have placed on the position and is miserable in their current role in the organization.

    What do you think? I welcome your feedback.

    (For more on the subject of innovation in leadership, I have set up a special category of previous posts in this area of thought.  Click HERE to read some of those posts.)

    Stress Results and Not Details

    If you want employees to ultimately accomplish the vision of the organization and actually take initiative and ownership in that vision, then leaders need to strive to…

    …Stress results and not details…

    That is a hard concept for many leaders.  They own their vision. They have in their mind what they want to achieve.  They have pre-determined exactly what a win looks like.  They can almost detail it out in their heads.  Therefore, if a leader is not careful he or she begins to stress the details of that vision as opposed to stressing and rewarding people for results achieved.

    Previously I posted on the need for leaders to be willing to “give their vision away”.  If ultimately what you want is the end goal accomplished, allow others to add their personal touch to their work, let them strive for excellence, dream their own dreams, and own their work. Then watch as they soar to accomplish your vision.  It may not look exactly as you thought it would, but chances are it will actually look better than you imagined.

    Leaders, do you stress more results or more details?  If you are in a work environment, would you rather your boss stress details or results?

    Does Your Organization Produce Innovative Leaders or Managed Followers?

    A friend of mine called recently to discuss his business.  He wants his employees to assume more ownership for their work and take more initiative on their own, without having to be asked to do something.  He wants to lead an organization that produces innovative leaders, not a bunch of managed followers.  Knowing a little about his workplace, I asked him an important question.  “Have you created an environment conducive to produce the kind of employees you say you want?”

    The way an organization is structured (often called the DNA of the organization) determines the type of employee it attracts and retains.  An atmosphere that produces innovative leaders, for example, has more to do with the culture of the organization than it does specific programs or activities the organization does. Leaders determine, therefore, whether they will create an environment that can produce innovative leaders or whether they will be an environment that merely produces managed followers.  Here are some general characteristics of those two environments:

    One that produces innovative leaders

    • More rewarding
    • More entrepreneurial
    • More freedom
    • More encouragement
    • More open-minded
    • More creative
    • More informal
    • More changeable
    • More risk-taking
    • More trusting

    One that produces managed followers

    • More oversight
    • More corporate
    • More rules
    • More controlling
    • More closed-minded
    • More defined
    • More formal
    • More static
    • More penalties for failure
    • More critical

    I realize there are not clear-cut divisions between the two types of environments.  Obviously “more” is a subjective word, but if you apply these broad characteristics to most major corporations you can probably tell which ones attempt to encourage innovation and which encourage a more compliant environment.  If you are a leader, ask yourself which of the two descriptions fits your organization best. Then ask yourself if this is the environment you want to lead.  (If you really want to know the correct answer, let your employees answer a survey anonymously.  You may be surprised at their response.)

    What other characteristics would you add to the lists above?

    (My next few posts will have further thoughts on this issue, including some specific activities to help foster innovation among your team, but remember, it begins with culture, not activities.)

    In The Darkest Days…Get Alone

    pd_darkness_071029_msThis is a re-post of one of my Mustard Seed Ministry devotionals. Perhaps you need this encouragement today.

    Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.” 2 Kings 4:4 NIV

    Elisha told the widow and her family to be alone. Sometimes, especially during the darkest days of life, we just need to be alone…with our God! Are you in one of those times today?

    It is great to have Christian friends. They are one of the great highlights of my Christian walk. I love to go to church to fellowship with other believers. If I have a problem, I want to be able to seek the counsel of others. I think God has certainly given us the ministry of encouragement to each other.

    I should tell you, however, that there are some times in life when the only One you need is Jesus! There will be times when you need to excuse yourself from the crowd, close the door behind you, and be alone with your Creator!

    It is those quiet moments with the Father, which will become the source of our hope and strength. It is those times, which God will use to refresh us for life. It is then that we can “Be still and know that He is God”.

    Do not try to go at your problems on your own! And, as great as they are, do not rely on friends exclusively to bear your burdens. In the darkest days, get alone with God, pour your heart out to Him, and let Him fill your cup to overflowing again.

    3 Steps To Get Started Delegating

    One absolute necessity for effectively leading a growing environment is the art of delegation. The leader who fails to delegate will inhibit growth of the organization and stifle leadership development of the team.

    Delegation is something to be learned and practiced. To get you started, here are 3 tips to delegating effectively:

    Give Away – You have to start somewhere. Find a project or task you would normally do and give it away to someone. Of course you want to trust the person, but one of the main excuses for not delegating is an issue of control. If you want to be an effective delegator you eventually have to trust someone else to complete a task.

    Be purposeful – There are lots of good reasons to delegate. Having a purpose will help you wrap your arms around the process of delegating. A few reasons I delegate:

    • It clears my desk and allows me to focus on other tasks
    • To give other opportunities and develop his or her leadership
    • It enhances teamwork
    • To improve efficiency – Some people can do parts of my job better than I can

    Let go – Never give responsibility without authority. Check back with those you have delegated to, but don’t micro-manage their efforts.

    I encourage you to repeat the process often. It will make you a better leader, your team a better team and your organization a better organization.

    How are you at delegating? What do you need to delegate today?

    3 Part Strategy For Spiritual Growth

    theGbwDiscipleship is the process of becoming more like Jesus Christ. It is the goal of every believer and producing disciples is the command Jesus gave the church. It is also the vision of Grace Community Church.

    Sometimes knowing the next step to take is the hardest. At Grace we have tried to simplify the process for you. We have three-part strategy designed to encourage spiritual growth and maturity.

    Gather – The goal is to become a regular attendee of the weekly Sunday gathering. It is difficult to take greater steps until a person begins a committed attendance pattern. In addition to providing a worship experience and teaching opportunity, the gathering is designed to be encouraging, engaging, and to produce interest in pursuing the next steps.

    Commit – Entering the commit stage of the strategy means a person takes a next step of joining a community group and commits to weekly Bible study and fellowship with other people on the same journey of discovering more about God and faith. Individuals of all levels of spiritual maturity are welcome into group life, but it is essential if a person wants to continue to grow in their understanding and beliefs. Additionally, because of the emphasis placed on community through groups, people who attend Grace will miss out on giving and receiving ministry opportunity if they are not a part of a group.

    Serve – The final stage of the strategy, and perhaps the most important, is when a person moves from soaking in grace and truth and begins to invest love into other people. This can be through volunteering at Grace or in the community, but there is something life changing about giving to others that helps a person to mature spiritually.

    Ultimately the goal of the believer should be to become a disciple, a follower of Christ. When one truly sets his or her focus on being like Christ he or she will become a “self-feeder” and seek after the deeper truths of the faith, more intimacy with Christ, greater fellowship with other believers and a more intense love for others. This really occurs when a person’s heart’s desire is to follow Christ completely and that is when the best spiritual growth can occur.  We believe following this strategy of Gather/Commit/Serve is the best we can offer to help a person become a disciple.

    What next step do you need to take?

    The Negative Side of My Command Strength

    I am becoming a student of Strengths Finder.  This personality reviewer gives a person insight into his or her “signature themes” of strengths or behaviors that help drive a person.  Over the next few days I will share my individual themes in an afternoon post.  Hopefully this will give insight into some of what makes me the way I am and even a clue as to why I may blog about what I blog about.

    Before I start to share, however, I need to share that I am also learning there are weaknesses that accompany each of the strengths. For example, one of my strengths is Command.  You will read more about it soon, but basically it is a strength, which leads me to take charge.  I want progress and I am wired to push for it if no one else does.  At times this can cause problems for those around me.

    Take for example, if I get to a four-way stop the same time as another car.  If the other car hesitates even for a second I am gone.  It is not that I mind waiting for the other car or that I mind the other car waiting for me, but I just don’t want the other car waiting for me as I wait for the other car as the other car waits for me…  In other words, I want forward progress!  Let’s go!  Sometimes this trait causes Cheryl to think I am impatient or unkind if she is in the seat next to me.

    When I am part of an organization that “strength” shows up as well.  If those around me are not leading, get out of the way and I will. I am perfectly fine if another person wants to lead, in fact I strongly encourage people to do something, take a risk, dream a dream, plan big.  I will even be okay if your way is different from mine (at times), but my main concern is that the ball is rolling in some direction.

    Unfortunately, this trait can at times be overwhelming, annoying, and even seem uncaring.  I am realizing that more each day.  My thought process now is to figure out how to allow this strength to work for the good of the organization and not allow it to disrupt team spirit, harmony, or morale.  I am trying to take COMMAND of my strengths!

    Let’s go!

    I Hate Job Titles

    I am not a big fan of job titles.  We have had some staff additions and changes in the last couple of months and one of the most frequent questions has been “What’s their new title?”  Frankly I do not care!  I am fine with people picking their own title and would rather spend my time concentrating on the work we need to get done.

    I suppose my dislike of titles has to do with one of my philosophies of work.  I think when an organization has a vision, operates as a team, and strategically sets out to accomplish it, that everyone’s job on the team is to see that the vision is accomplished, regardless of a person’s title.

    Titles to me are too specific. They seem to indicate a defined area of focus.  I realize some people need that for clarity and I understand the need for specialization around an area of work or skill sets, but I prefer a job description to a title.  I like for a person to understand the goals and objectives for the position, and even more than that, the overall vision of the organization and for them to realize how they are a key part of the organization’s success. That is hard to capture in a specific job title.  Job titles tend to lead to the phrase and thought, “That’s not my job.”

    I realize job titles are cultural, so we will keep using them, but I do not have to like something just because everyone else is doing it.  I almost wish we could start calling everyone “Team Player” and if they need a big title to feel good or to dress up a business card, maybe we could title them “Director of What’s Required”.

    Do you like job titles?  Does your title truly capture the entire role you play in your organization?

    This Fall At Grace Community Church

    This week in a message called “Hot Seat” we unveiled some of the vision for Grace Community Church this fall. In this message we introduce new staff members and new assignments. Keep up with what Grace is doing next here… You can watch the first 10 minutes without logging in and then Truthcasting forces you to log in. I hope you will take the effort to watch an interview about what God is doing at Grace.