The Hunt for Great Ideas – Innovation & Creativity

 

3 ways that business leaders can drive a culture of innovation & creativity

The pressure to innovate in business is stronger than ever. Short product lifecycles, customer expectations and the onward race of technology all mean that Peter Drucker’s dictum “innovate or die” has never been more salient.

Obviously, not every company has creativity hard wired in to the DNA of their culture in the way that an organisation like Google definitely has. As a business leader, if you see the need to boost creativity and innovation, how do you go about it?

The thought of culture change can seem scary and challenging. How do you go about fundamentally altering the way that people think and behave? There are numerous complex models and approaches out there to help you to change your culture, but the good news is that there is a lot you can do at a simple level to start to drive the creativity that you need from your people.

One of the best definitions of corporate culture is simply “the way things are done around here.” With that in mind, the easy to grasp opportunity is to just start doing things a little differently – focusing on some of the key things that affect how people behave – what they hear from their leaders, how they are rewarded and how they work with others. By making sure that your leadership messages consistently set the tone, that you move away from a blame culture to one that encourages trial and error and that you actively encourage creative collaboration, you can start to achieve great things.

Here are 3 simple things that you can do to start to create an environment where innovation can flourish:

1. Be clear on your expectations

If innovation really matters to your business, then leaders need to be clear and consistent with how they promote that message. People should know that thinking creatively and looking for new opportunities is not just for the marketing people or somebody further up the pay scale, but that there is an expectation that everyone has a role to play. This is Twitter’s mission statement:

“To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.”

Would that get you out of bed in the morning?

2. Allow failure

The essence of innovation is experimentation. When employees are not afraid of the repercussions of failure, they will be prepared to experiment with new ways to approach challenging problems. They need to know that they will get the support of their managers when things go wrong, every bit as much as they will get recognition and appreciation when they go right.

As creativity expert Ken Robinson says, “If you are not prepared to be wrong, then you will never come up with anything original.”

3. Recognise that innovation is a team game

Successful innovation is rarely an individual pursuit. How well you reach out to other functions, business units and stakeholders, in order to leverage all of the expertise that is out there, will be central to your success. In a complex industry, collaboration is key to achieving breakthrough thinking and implementing effective solutions.

A great example of this in action is Proctor and Gamble’s “Connect & Develop” strategy. It has helped them to develop hundreds of highly innovative new products over the last few years. They actively approach other leading companies, inventors and stakeholders to share ideas and insights, in the knowledge that this collaboration creates the sparks that can produce brilliant new ideas.  The key to building an innovation culture is all about cultivating a mindset that allows people to learn to see the world in new ways.

 

Collaboration – it’s a trust thing

personnages qui portent une leche

 

Wild Thinking spent a great day yesterday at the Decom Offshore Conference, and the word of the day was definitely collaboration. The message was clear – operators and supply chain need to look beyond money and “what’s in it for me?” and think instead about how they can build proper win / win relationships based on “what’s in it for us?”.

The prize is potentially huge. With the Oil and Gas Authority looking to the industry to deliver 35% savings on current levels, opportunities to collaborate, learn and share are seen as key planks in unlocking the viability of a thriving decommissioning sector. We heard about BS1100, which brings solid business process to the job of collaboration and that is clearly a very important thing. What stood out though, was that underpinning all of these technical and structural considerations, there is a very simple human consideration – trust.

Trust is won (and lost) through behaviours. Interestingly, one speaker was very candid about the whole behaviours piece. He was asked to comment on how to approach building and measuring the human dimension to collaboration and he said that that this was still very much work in progress,  with a number of spreadsheets in development!

This got us thinking about what Wild Thinking could do to accelerate the trust building process  – a process that holds the key to the collaborative behaviours that will help build momentum in what is this morning reported as being a $100 billion industry over the next 25 years.

So here it is, the 5 step guide to building trust in business:

  1. Understand the outcomes that everyone needs and get aligned behind goals that will create a true win /win
  2. Be prepared to give trust in the first instance. Be brave and take a few risks!
  3. Remember that you don’t have all of the answers. Be open about your failings and you will get to know and understand each other properly.
  4. Actively talk about values and look for common ground that will anchor your joint endeavour against any rough seas.
  5. Give feedback and welcome feedback from others. There will be things that you say and do that rub others up the wrong way. Get them out in the open and you will improve the working relationship as you go

 

Collaboration is the way forward but if we really want to make it work for us, then it is time to go beyond process and platitudes and start to model the behaviours that really build trust. When we do that, the prize becomes a lot easier to reach.

Leaders

KITCHENER RECRUITING POSTER

Your people need you to make empowerment happen!

Empowerment is at the core of many of the great corporate success stories, but where does it come from? What are the conditions that allow it to flourish and importantly what is the role of leaders in making it happen?

In a recent article in The Guardian, Karen Lynas of the NHS Leadership Academy argues passionately that the NHS should be spending less on Management Consultants and more on staff development training.

She believes that development training would help to empower their staff to solve their own problems and in doing so would allow NHS leaders to tap in to the diverse talents they already have and create a real sense of engagement and ownership.

It is important to recognise that empowerment takes conscious effort. There is no point in just saying “OK team, you are empowered – go to it!” Unless the core leadership skills are there and expectations are clear, then this approach could seriously backfire.

Wild Thinking helps organisations to create truly empowered working environments, where less of the “thinking” needs to be outsourced to consultants and staff are able to seize the initiative and sort things out for themselves.

Our empowerment based leadership programme STRETCH helps leaders to make empowerment happen by:

– Igniting passion around a sense of common purpose
– Building trust
– Getting people actively “owning” the quality of what they do
– Giving people the confidence and support to take responsibility for themselves

 

No-one knows your business better than your staff, so why not give them the support that they need to take responsibility for themselves? One thing is sure – they will thank you for it!

We’ve made a short film available on youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WZ_bAB4obw) that talks you though the basics. So why not call us on 01540 661 502 to discuss how STRETCH could make a difference in your organisation.

Wild 2016 from the Wild Thinking Team

The graphic image of the monkey, monkey head, the face. Drawing by hand on a white background. Vector illustration, quick sketch

Have a happy, prosperous and…wild 2016

Now that we have indulged, feasted, partied, chilled and resolved, it is time to get back to work with a bang. It is 2016, the year of the monkey, and time to get after all those so-so, half-cocked and could-have-been-better things that we never managed to sort out last year. There is no better time to act on those opportunities to put in place the changes that will make this year more successful, efficient and rewarding than the last.
We have been hard at work creating an exciting New Year’s hamper full of training and development opportunities that will help you to drive more empowerment, better leadership and brilliant teamwork.
Don’t let the dark days of January sap your resolve. Get in touch to find out more about any of our new programmes – or just for a chat about how you can put a little more zing in to your working year. Call us on 01540 661 502.

Is our obsession with hard work hurting productivity?

In the UK, it seems that we are obsessed with hard work. The phrase “hard working families” is used in politics like a mantra to conjure up images of virtue and responsibility, while the standard business small talk question seems to be “are you busy?”. As a nation we certainly don’t work the longest hours in Europe (that honour goes to the Greeks!) but we are mid way up the pack and in some business sectors, long working weeks are the norm. Lessons from Scandinavia might suggest that our hard working ways might actually be hurting our productivity rather than boosting it.

A decade ago, Toyota’s Swedish service centre experimented with a 6-hour working day and they discovered that productivity and profitability actually went up. Since then, various organisations have been doing extensive trials of shorter working hours, with a view to making a 30-hour week the national norm. What they have discovered is that if you have clear ground rules in place about cutting out activities that are non-productive, then shorter days can be more effective as you are fresher and more focused on what you are there to do. You are working smarter – not harder.

Hard work is of course hard to measure, but one metric that is well used is simply time spent in the office. You know the idea: “Bob is a hard worker, he is here before everyone else and usually the last to leave!” The question, however, is time at work always synonymous with productive work?

Imagine for a second your working week, and try to map out all of the things that effectively waste your time. I am guessing, but they might include:

  • Reading pointless emails
  • Attending meetings that are either poorly run or irrelevant to you
  • Time on social media to relieve the tedium of the above

 

Imagine then that you replaced this with time at home or out of the office. Fill in the gaps for your self – you could be with your family, playing sport, walking in the woods – whatever.

The Swedish experience suggests that taking time away from work to enjoy these things will actually increase your effectiveness when you are there. If it that easy, then why aren’t we all doing it? Simple – most of us are desperate to keep up the appearance of hard work for fear of being branded as slackers.

So what is the answer? Maybe it is time to care less about what people think and care more about the quality of the work that we actually do. The Swedish research shows that by getting work life balance right you can be healthier, happier and achieve more. What’s not to like?

We work with leaders to help them focus on what is important in their roles and to form the habits that will drive success. Please get in touch if you would like to know more.

Fit @ $50

Big change for crude oil price

 

Depending on your priorities, the current slump in the oil price could be good news! Fuel at a little over £1.00 a litre, for example, feels pretty good.

If you are actually working in the industry, however, the positives are scarcer than hen’s teeth. The one exception is the idea of businesses being “fit at $50 (or even $40)”. This is the idea that if organisations can get their act together to be viable in a downturn, then when things pick up they will be laughing. The good news for us at Wild Thinking is that clients who want to be “fit at $50” really do need to work smarter and that’s where we can help!

 

 

Read More

Enjoying the Festival without the Circus

0b1c59de-a593-42bc-ac36-87a28da0e5dc

Summer is firmly upon us. You only need to look out of the window for evidence of this. OK, so dependent on your locale this maybe easier to recognise in some places rather than others.

Regardless, though, of the day’s weather as you read this, it won’t stop the annual hopes that you actually see your fair share of nice days. Allowing you to get out of the workplace and enjoy some pleasant time outdoors.

Read More

Ace!

Tennisball Pendel

A successful business often sees one singular person at the top, who accepts the plaudits and kudos, rarely the whole team. Though it would be incredibly unusual for that individual not to be supported by a less recognised, but equally dedicated group of individuals behind the scenes keeping the whole thing on track.

In this way tennis and indeed any top level solo sport is very similar to the companies we all work for.

Read More

5 steps to Mission & Vision Greatness

Space rocket in universe

Space rocket in universe

Corporate mission and vision statements sometimes get a bad press. Sure, poor ones can be clichéd, vague and overly long. Most successful organisations in the world have them, however, so what is not to like?

The challenge is to develop a mission and vision statement that people really connect with and feel that they own. At their best, the statement should be the compass that gives a workforce direction and a clear sense of purpose. At their worst, however, they can be little more than designed-by-committee platitudes that rarely emerge from some forgotten corporate file.

Read More

Tough times? Think BIG, Work Smarter!

wildthinking illustrations_Page_01Tough times call for tough decisions, but business success is about more than just what is right for the short term.

Success comes from thinking differently, seeing opportunities further down the line and building strategies for the future. Most importantly, it is about making sure that your people are up for the challenge, motivated and always looking for the next opportunity to improve performance.

Read More