How to Spark Innovative Thinking at Work

Being innovative at work doesn’t happen by accident. Forward-thinking innovation has to be practiced. If a work environment doesn’t prioritize innovation, they most likely won’t get any creativity. That’s why leaders in the top companies worldwide do their best to inspire innovation in their workforce.

A worker can’t innovate without the space, time, and tools to do so. In some cases, this is about computers and software. In others, it could mean certain training or education. The right tools will get you the right results. Some team leads give their team members a notepad and a pen, advising them to write down any ideas during the day. This also applies to ideation sessions, design thinking workshops, and similar innovation-based processes.

Here is a look at how to spark innovative thinking at work.

Design Thinking Workshops

Design thinking workshops teach teams the five stages of design thinking: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. Design thinking is a process by which an open exchange of ideas is fostered. It allows everyone to get their ideas out without judgment and evaluate them almost down to a scientific level. Amazing things can happen when you create an environment where the best idea wins and when you know that idea’s been thoroughly tested and vetted.

Reduce Stress

Few good things happen when we’re stressed. At work, a certain amount of stress is expected. Being overwhelmed, however, is bad news. Encourage open communication. Look at the environment your team is in. Is there a way to provide more support or reduce stress? Your productivity metrics have to align with maximizing output and what’s possible, considering how easily a team can get overwhelmed with too much.

Break Up Routines

You need a certain amount of routine to ensure work gets done and maximize productivity. A routine isn’t going to net you much in the innovation department. Set aside the time and resources to break up the routine by either going to a new location or trying a new teambuilding activity. You can also try doing something that gets your team out of their comfort zone.

Open, Creative Workspaces

You don’t want it to impede creativity, but little things to foster an open environment can spark innovative thinking. You may look to your break room as a space you can fill with snacks and games. Some companies allow for extended breaks at certain times as a sign of employee appreciation. This is to help employees get out of ‘normal work mode’ and put them in a more positive mindset.

Positive Reinforcement

A team member will not want to go out of their way to contribute to innovation if they aren’t acknowledged in some way for this effort. Positive reinforcement can be as simple as encouragement and a verbal pat-on-the-back. Many bosses take things to the next level with rewards, bonuses, special privileges, and prizes to help keep teams and individuals motivated. When there’s something to work towards, you are more likely to see results.

Complementary Team Members

You do not want a lot of in-fighting distracting from innovation. Build teams with members that complement one another. Different experiences. Different skillsets. The weaknesses of one employee are complemented by the strengths of another. This is how you fill the gaps and give each person the space to think and ideate. Some of the world’s most profitable innovations occurred by groups of individuals who were different and yet complemented each other in a team format.

Diverse Perspectives

Diversity is a necessity in innovative thinking spaces. It offers viewpoints you wouldn’t otherwise hear from. It also avoids groupthink, something that can be detrimental to innovation as all individuals start to think alike. They cannot see issues that others can identify. You want a team to function and have open communication. At the same time, you also want to have alternative perspectives in the mix, allowing ideas to fertilize, grow, and adapt.

Innovation Through Exposure

To inspire innovation, show your team past innovations. Bring in, guest speakers. Show them innovation in unrelated categories of work, such as music or film. Watch documentaries on innovators. Have books around written by innovators. Use past innovation not as a source of duplication but as a way to inspire. This is, once again, about bringing in new perspectives to ultimately stoke the creativity that exists in all of us.

Do Not Be Afraid to Fail

Fear of failure kills creativity. It kills innovation. Try to eliminate the fear of failure. Design thinking naturally does this because it’s a system in which most ideas lead to failure. Failure becomes normalized, as it should be. Creatives always fail more often than they succeed. This isn’t a bad thing and failure shouldn’t be penalized or punished. If an employee knows it’s acceptable to fail, at least as it relates to innovative thinking, that person won’t hesitate to be open and honest.

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