Before will, skills and tools, what aspiring innovators need is time. It is a delicate topic because within organizations, the preference is for employees to keep the machine’s wheels turning as efficiently as possible. This leaves no time for reflection and play.
So, what to do?
Make time to reflect. It really is that simple.
You were probably expecting a detailed plan, but no. You have to create time in your schedule to reflect and think. Stepping back from your work, taking a walk, talking to diverse people and asking questions are critical activities needed to stimulate new ideas. But, what do you do if you want to systematically engage every employees creative powers?
Here are some concrete ideas on how you can make time for innovation within your organization:
- Hold a FedEx Day. Software company Atlassian uses hackathons to get employees to propose new ideas, prototype and implement them. The objective is to get people to work on stuff that they wouldn’t do during normal working hours.
- Lunch Club. I started a club where two times per month I invite people, who are not alike, to lunch and talk about their issues, observations, insights or just whatever topic they are thinking about. We are there anywhere from one hour to two exchanging ideas. It is meant to invite people to talk about what they have in their heads and give opportunity to others to opine.
Various companies use similar mechanisms to get people to “break out”. Google’s 20% time strategy became well known because Gmail and AdSense where hatched during those moments Google encouraged employees to play with new ideas. Though this worked for Google, it might not work for you. So, the best thing is to just let people play.
Bottom line: Every company has people people who are unsatisfied. Let them play, no adult supervision required. Just try it.
Originally published in Prescouter