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Do you know what kills innovation?

We can’t see it, but definitely feel it and maybe unconsciously or consciously ignore it too!

It’s the “Undercurrent of Emotions” in the room full of people where we are expecting creative problem solving or innovation!

Fear of being ridiculed, being wronged, of being rejected or judged – are few of the emotions that prevail in almost all the crucial meetings.

If you are a leader who wants to build a culture of innovation, here are 5 ways in which you can make it happen!

1.     Make “FAILURE” a comfortable discussion – Have at-least one forum/meeting in a week or month, where there is a mandate for all the leaders and members to start with “What they failed in, and what they learnt out of it?”… it could be recent past or anytime in life, could be personal or professional!

2.     Microobserve discomforts and address them – During your meetings, observe the undercurrents, discomforts brought by people through behaviors like disgraceful interruptions, disrespectful remarks and facial expressions, smirks, funny and/or hidden comments. Bring it to the forefront or handle it offline.

Observe the trends and do what is appropriate (empathize and respect), build team norms, set expectations. These behaviors elicit fears and vulnerabilities in others and hold back their comments.

3.     Allocate appropriate time to discuss “EMOTIONAL TEMPERATURE” in the room – This is a brilliant idea from 6 Thinking Hats, where 30 seconds time is allocated for people to just say how they are feeling… ONLY FEELING. Use the emotional vocabulary if required. Google search using “Emotions wheel” – take a print if required. An enhanced emotional vocabulary leads to better EQ in people. Rule is “No explanation, rationalization or defense by anyone about the emotion, just the word describing it!” and “Respect everyone’s emotion”.

4.     Use Silent idea generation method for problem solving or brainstorming – Where do you get your maximum ideas? The probable answers are – Shower, Walking, Before sleeping, early morning etc. The common part about these answers is that the best ideas come when you are “ALONE”, so then why we want everyone to come up with their best ideas in a group discussion set up at work? A better way to generate 10X ideas without any emotional barriers and to utilize the maximum workforce potential, is to throw open the challenge statement, and ask the group to take few minutes and write their best ideas on post-its. If you want to save time, write some obvious ideas on the board and ask them to think beyond those already obvious ideas!

5.     Treat EACH idea with respect – Now this is the last straw and most of the facilitators fail to manage this part. The moment a group or member see an idea that doesn’t make sense to them, discussion starts happening about why it’s not the right one. That is a perfect recipe to kill innovation & creativity culture. The team rule must be laid carefully about NOT COMMENTING on the ideas, instead vote for the top ones and keep narrowing the funnel.

Special note for the leaders/facilitators –

  1. When you call upon your teams to share ideas, keep in mind the following –
  2. Please share your idea(s) in the end, if required
  3. Be as neutral as you can for all good and bad ideas being generated in the room (just be appreciative of the process and how everyone is contributing)
  4. Even in normal meetings, leave people with an inspiring challenge to reflect and think upon. Just throw open some reflective questions for them to think through
  5. Show respect to failure and appreciate risk taking even if the results weren’t as expected

Please comment your thoughts and other ideas that you feel leaders must embrace to build a culture of innovation and creativity. PS : Follow the same rules at home with children too!

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