7 ways to make it safe for others to innovate

how to unlock innovation

Great leaders make it safe for others to innovate. What stops innovation? Fear.

Fear of the unknown. Fear of public shame. Fear of failing. Fear of getting started. All these fears, in one way or another, get in our way. How do we make it safe for others to innovate? You let them try stuff and see what happens.

Here are 7 ways to make it safe for others to innovate:

  1. Champion ideas by getting involved. Sometimes all people need to see is if you sponsor ideas. But more effective, and which sends a huge signal, is if you as a leader are hands on. No one will argue or question your dedication if you are involved. In other words: Practice what you preach.
  2. Speak up not down. Get some healthy debate going. If everyone agrees with each other, that is a bad sign. Dissent is good when it leads to constructive criticism.
  3. Ask. This goes with the last point. Identify the “yes men” and encourage them to disagree with you.
  4. Yes and. To put it simple, become a yes man. But more powerful is the “and”, as in adding to other people’s ideas.
  5. Prototype it. Pictures speak louder than words. Prototypes, stuff you can use are even more powerful. Pictures, diagrams, story boards, stuff made out of cardboard, all are useful for communicating ideas.
  6. Give them time. Google is known for their 20% time formula for stimulating innovation within the company. Gmail and Adwords were born as a result of 20% time. But want to take this a step further? How about implementing a FedEx Day activity where your whole company takes one day to build and deliver innovation overnight? What is a FedEx Day? Very simply, FedEx Day is a 24-hour innovation immersion event that enables employees to brainstorm, prototype, and pitch their emerging innovations. Why is it called “FedEx Day”? Because the goal of the 24-hour blitz is for participants to originate, develop, and deliver new products, new services, or business process improvements overnight.
  7. Don’t forget the customer/client. This one is very important. It seems to me that organization want to innovate “just because” it could result in growth or because of competitive reaction. Not good. Innovation is about value. And the one who receives this value is the customer. If your efforts are focused on doing just that, people should not be afraid of wanting to satisfy customers.

Have anything to add? I know you do. Fire away in the comments!

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