Want to Build an Innovative Company? Give Creative Power to Your Employee

Ask yourself what you would do if you couldn't fail.

pitching an idea

When someone gives them a new idea, many leaders follow it with a "but" statement. When an employee shares their idea, they respond with some variation of:

"But we don't have the money."

"But it can't be done that way."

"But we've always done it this way."

The "but" mindset engenders a company and an ecosystem where ideas are kept quiet and employees look for somewhere else to land where they can bring their own ideas to fruition.

Instead, it's up to leaders to keep our perspectives open. Try saying yes or considering more avenues to ensure we don't pursue failure-free companies, but instead companies that optimize growth. You should be forming a culture where people are free to fail because the wisdom that comes from such failures is often invaluable.

Ideas can be large or small, but small improvements might yield larger changes.

In an article, the Harvard Business Review chronicled what happened when one company's leadership team welcomed ideas to improve the business. One employee suggested flipping the layout of the company cafeteria to put healthy foods first and feature them prominently. Another posited that signs should be hung near the elevator to encourage people to use the stairs.

Those seemingly minor changes reduced the company's insurance payments by 20%. Small ideas, big results.

Leaders often face the challenge of stimulating their employees' creative minds. Even if they are receptive to new ideas, some hires might sit on them for lack of motivation.

The critical step is creating a company culture that dispels the myth that not everyone is creative.

Ideas of all sizes should be presented, and a person's resume, credentials or job title should never stop them from sharing their thoughts. If there is something that needs to change, anyone should feel empowered to do their best to change it.

Based on my research, I've landed on four critical qualities that creative employees share and that innovative workplaces foster.

1. Willingness to take Risks

Undoubtedly, some courage is needed to raise an idea that challenges company customs. But a company that talks about the right way to take risks will bring out this willingness in its employees.

Research shows that a critical personality trait of entrepreneurs is willingness to take risks, and that "the risk propensity of entrepreneurs is greater than that of managers."

The critical follow-up question is why does this difference exist? Managers need to adopt policies and strategies that engender success just as an entrepreneur does, yet one group seems willing to take leaps of faith that the other will not.

2. Thoughtfulness and Attention to Detail

To solve a problem, you have to first recognize it exists. Stepping back from issues can alleviate blind spots and give everyone a chance to analyze something critically. Without concentration and attention to detail, many problems go unrecognized. Ideas need not always address a "problem." Rather, they can create efficiencies or new opportunities.

3. Willingness to Challenge the Status Quo

Nearly everyone who has entered the workforce has heard someone give advice. Wait a while before you upset the apple cart or start suggesting sweeping changes. The question you should respond with is: Why? Conformity needs to be challenged. Old ideas can be refreshed with new ones. Just because something has been done one way for years does not mean it should be done that way in perpetuity.

Employers often measure their workers' job satisfaction with a series of questions. As Dr. Robert Vance explains,there are a few common themes related to engagement. Those include:

• Pride in employer.

• Satisfaction with employer.

• Job satisfaction.

• Opportunity to perform well at challenging work.

• Recognition and positive feedback for one's contributions.

Perhaps Vance agrees that employees who feel empowered to challenge the status quo and systems they don't like are most likely to express satisfaction in a job they had a role in shaping.

4. Specificity About the Objective

Simply changing the way something is done without a stated goal for improvement or efficiency results in chaos — and not the good kind.

Savvy leaders will talk with their team about getting to an endpoint, and they will allow other creative minds to craft the path to get there. Most of the time, it will not be the obvious path one might have assumed.

Ultimately, fostering a workplace that thrives on everyone's ideas requires trust. Trust is gradually earned, not given, and employees have to trust that their leaders are delegating responsibility because they believe in their expertise. Second-guessing undermines the entire organization.

Researcher Michael F. Steger writes, "Whereas meaningful work...can be defined as the subjective experience that one's job, work, or career is meaningful, provides synergy with one's meaning in life, and benefits some greater good, the "meaning of work" pursues "the significance, beliefs, definitions and the value which individuals and groups attach to working as a major element of human activity."

An understanding of clear objectives ascribes meaning, purpose and drive for employees. Greatness is often achieved by having a strong answer to the question, "What's your why?"

When you know why you're working hard for an objective, your drive becomes the critical element that will keep someone pushing past the biggest challenges that stand in their way.

So ask yourself what you would do if you couldn't fail. The creative answer lies within.

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