How to foster innovative thinking in your team | Main region

How to foster innovative thinking in your team

Collaboration amongst employees

How do you encourage team innovation? Innovation sets successful organisations apart, helps them adapt to new and unexpected scenarios, and underpins continued growth. But creating a workplace where people think innovatively and come up with innovative ideas on a regular basis is not always easy.

In a workplace, creativity and innovation often occur within teams. It’s thanks to the combination of people with different levels of expertise, perspectives, backgrounds, personalities, ages and cultures that a variety of thoughts and ideas occur.

As a leader, your job is to create an environment within your workplace that encourages and fosters innovation, creativity and new ideas. To help encourage innovation among your employees and get the very best from them, we share our advice below.

11 ways to encourage team innovation

We don’t know what the future will hold, which is why successful organisations create workplaces where creativity and innovation can thrive. Following are our tips on how to foster innovation in a team. With these, you’ll help your employees become innovative and benefit from creative thinking in the workplace.

1. Encourage interaction between departments

In many organisations, especially large businesses, it can be easy for different departments to become segregated and shut off from each other. Such a detached environment makes it difficult for employees to fully appreciate how the business functions as a whole.

Encouraging members of different departments to come together now and again will help them break out of their silos, be inspired by new ways of thinking and come up with ways for departments to work together to make processes more efficient or effective.

2. Look for alternative methods

When you are faced with a recurring problem, don’t immediately resort to the tried and tested practice. Although this may seem like the safer option, sometimes there is a better, more successful solution. So, look for alternative methods to do things and, in the process, you’ll lead by example and encourage your employees to do the same. You never know how much of a difference can be made simply by taking the time to explore alternative ideas and ways of working.

3. Encourage reverse mentoring

Reverse mentoring is the process of teaming up senior and entry-level employees so that both gain new skills and knowledge from each other. Although a senior employee may have many years of business expertise and industry knowledge to pass on, the entry-level staff member might have valuable insights to share on new technologies or what makes young consumers tick. Or perhaps the entry-level employee has a different perspective on certain aspects of the business and a fresh way of thinking that could be shared.

By combining the knowledge and different perspectives of entry-level and senior staff, you may find that innovative new ideas begin bubbling up between them.

4. Step away from the workplace

Creativity and innovation doesn’t always come when we’re restricted to the same workplace every day. Even if your team operates a hybrid working model, getting out into new environments can aid innovation and creative thinking. Even simple actions such as going for a refreshing walk or scheduling a regular team meeting in a local café can help to get the creative juices flowing.

5. Encourage learning by mistakes

When innovative thinking and new ideas are encouraged, there is inevitably a certain degree of risk-taking. But it’s important to embrace rather than be afraid of this. When members of your team take risks and get things wrong, be sure to let them know that mistakes are okay and should be learnt from. If you berate staff for ideas that go wrong, they’ll be unwilling to put forward future ideas for fear of failing again, which means plenty of fantastic ideas could go to waste. So, focus on constructive criticism and ongoing learning, and your team will quickly understand that with some carefully calculated risk, their new ideas can still come to life.

6. Welcome every idea

Putting a creative idea out there in front of your colleagues and superiors can be daunting, so to boost the confidence of your team members make sure you always welcome all ideas that come your way, no matter how out of the box they may be.

If a team member proposes an idea that simply isn’t right for the business, don’t dismiss it outright. Instead, make a concerted effort to be enthusiastic and talk through the ins and outs of the concept. By doing so, you can carefully and tactfully explain why the idea is not quite right, yet your team member will still feel appreciated for their creative thinking and will learn from it. In addition, while the original idea may not be right, by discussing it you may find that it triggers new thoughts and ideas that your business could well utilise.

7. Make brainstorming a regular occurrence

Brainstorming doesn’t have to be restricted to specific projects. Sometimes it’s helpful to practice group brainstorming to discuss general ways in which your business could improve. For instance, perhaps you could organise a group session away from the workplace to break the day-to-day routine and mindset of your team and stimulate creativity. Encourage members of different teams in the business to come together and make sure everyone has an opportunity to speak so that quieter voices can also share their thoughts.

Make sure you set an agenda and share the discussion points with the team ahead of time. For instance, you might ask them to come up with five things the company could improve or one way their department could be more productive. Encourage ideas both big and small – a suggestion for a new coffee machine in the kitchen may not seem as ground-breaking as an idea for a new line of products, but both can have a positive impact on the business and your staff in different ways.

8. Be influential not controlling

A controlling leader does not stimulate creativity, so be someone who influences rather than controls, particularly when it comes to ideas. For example, don’t push forward with your ideas over your team’s, particularly if they don’t willingly agree that your idea is the best. Don’t keep throwing new ideas their way either – give them a few suggestions and encourage them to come up with their own. By being creative, while also welcoming creativity in others, innovation will flourish.

9. Reward and incentivise innovative thinking

Encouraging innovative thinking can help employees share new ideas. After all, just because they haven’t so far shared any ideas, it doesn’t mean they don’t have them. If you think an incentive would encourage staff to speak up about new ideas, consider a rewards system to show your appreciation for the creativity of all members of staff.

10. Implement an ‘ideas box’

Inspiration can come at the most random moment, so create the opportunity for staff to easily share their great ideas at any time. Rather than waiting for the monthly team meeting, create a simple way for ideas to be shared, such as through a dedicated team chat app or a more traditional ideas box. This will help to ensure ideas are collected rather than forgotten. You can then have a more detailed conversation about each idea later.

11. Action good ideas, no matter who came up with them

Sometimes ideas only get actioned when they’ve come from a senior member of staff, leaving entry-level team members to feel disheartened that their ideas aren’t taken seriously. Whenever you hear a good idea, be sure to action it in some way and let the member of staff know about it. Not only will they feel empowered and inspired to keep up with their creative thinking, but they’ll be more confident to speak up with any future ideas, too.

Encourage creativity and innovative thinking in your business today

Knowing how to promote creative and innovative thinking in your company and foster innovation amongst a team takes time. There are a lot of dynamics at play, but leaders who create a culture and environment where innovative solutions and creative ideas are encouraged will be the ones who see their team succeed and thrive in the new world of work.


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