Get your team talking and inspire innovation


Many executives see innovation as a leadership issue: The big guns, employed at significant cost, are incapable of delivering what they promised.

But the lone genius is a rare find, and in your hunt to find one, you’ll end up alienating and demotivating some truly brilliant minds (let’s just say Steve Jobs, Apple, Pixar and leave it at that). 

Putting all your eggs in one lone genius does not make for effective innovation. If you want your business to thrive, look around at the rest of your team and realize the goldmine you have in front of you. You just need to tap into it. 

Here’s how to tap into the goldmine that is the rest of your team.

 1. Level the playing field

You know the old adage: There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team,’ but in his book Where Ideas Come From, author Steven Johnson shares the results of research on scientific innovation conducted by McGill University’s Kevin Dunbar, which showed that only when groups of researchers, working together and challenging each other’s ideas did innovation move to the next level. Steven Johnson said during his 2010 TEDtalk:

“Almost all of the important breakthrough ideas did not happen alone in the lab, in front of the microscope. They happened at the conference table at the weekly lab meeting, when everybody got together and shared their kind of latest data and findings, often times when people shared the mistakes they were having, the error, the noise in the signal they were discovering. And something about that environment — and I’ve started calling it the liquid network, where you have lots of different ideas that are together, different backgrounds, different interests, jostling with each other, bouncing off each other — that environment is, in fact, the environment that leads to innovation.”


 2. Be a bit King Arthur

Take a leaf out of King Arthur’s book and build a Round Table, even if it’s a figurative one. Arthur’s Round Table challenged the idea that, as king, he was the authority on everything. Instead he showed his knights that he trusted their abilities and valued their opinions as much as he valued his own. 

Here’s what your metaphorical Round Table looks like: 

  • Have a clear goal with a clear path showing the team how they are going to fulfill their challenge.
  • Know how to ask the right questions (more on this soon).
  • Praise. Sincerely. Tell people (especially Millenials) you like their ideas or the work they have done, and they will work harder.
  • Find the positive in ideas and encourage others to take each idea and run with it – around your Round Table – until you find its end.
  • Weed out the chaff. If you know there are people undermining the team or not pulling their weight, help them to step up and know what being appreciated feels like (when they’ve done something worth appreciating). Boosting their morale will help them feel part of the team.
  • Keep communication lines open. Recognize contributions and ideas both at the Round Table and in day-to-day work.
  • Be a part of the team. Lording it over them would have Arthur turning in his grave. Roll your sleeves up and be a part of the team.

Whatever you can do to get the conversation moving and keep it alive will inspire legendary innovation. What do you do to motivate and inspire your team?

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