How to Build a Safety Net to Encourage Team Innovation

How to build a safety net to encourage team innovation and boost workplace productivity.

Innovation is the life blood of any organisation. As humans, we have a high affinity for the unexpected, and the new. Even when we find comfort in the well-known and familiar, everything eventually outlives its usefulness. On the one hand, we say that we want stability and security, but in our hearts, what most of us really want is excitement and the unexpected. On some level, every single one of us craves change.

Employee engagement is a key driver of innovation

With so many leadership and management gurus recognising the importance of innovation to success, it may come as a surprise to learn that employee engagement, which is so critical to driving change, has so severely declined. According to a 2017 report from AON Hewitt, globally only 24 percent of all employees could be described as highly engaged in their work.

Why is that? According to author Mark LeBusque in Being Human, one of the key factors is that managers are asking their people to “take risks” without providing “safety nets in case they fail.”

What can you do to create a safety net for your people and encourage them to be innovative?

Clever CEOs do these things.

Resist conformity

Whenever we assemble into groups, most of us tend to want to “fit in” and act in a way that conforms to a group. While this can seemingly increase the strength and stability of an organisation, absolute conformity stifles creativity.

To create an organisation that embraces change and innovation, CEOs must lead the way by thoroughly examining their organisation’s processes and removing barriers that discourage experimentation. It should truly be “safe” to experiment and to try new ways of thinking about things and doing things.

When you or your team sees an opportunity to change, embrace it. Don’t resist it by focusing on what could go wrong. Embrace the possibilities offered by new ideas by testing them out.

Change your attitude to risk

Change the way that you think about experimentation and risk. You and your team should approach new ideas from a new mindset.

Does the innovation work and will it continue to work when it’s scaled? Did the upgrade not work as expected? Great! What can we learn from this failure that might lead to a future improvement? If the new way worked out, how can we make it work even better?

Become a risk taker

The best way to encourage others to take a risk is to take risks yourself. Of course, I’m not talking about life or death level risk; I mean risks that you’ve carefully weighed up. When you know the possible downside and it’s something you can deal with, go out and take that risk. If it doesn’t work out, show that it’s ok. Find the positives and put the emphasis on those.

Prove your support

Too often people have been punished for taking a risk and failing. They learn not to do it again, and just follow the herd. What a loss that is to the organisation. No new ideas, no innovation.

Instead, look for ways to reward your team for taking risks, even when they don’t pan out. This simple step increases their sense of security and confidence so that they feel safe enough to continue pushing towards the discovery of the next “big” concept. It also builds their trust in you so they are willing to test out their ideas without fear.

Create open workspaces

Our environment has a big impact on how well we work individually and as a group. When we close ourselves off from interaction with others, it negatively effects our energy levels and mood and can stifle creativity and cooperation. CEOs can increase employee engagement and encourage innovation by creating open workspaces in their organisations.

Additional elements, such as providing opportunities for recreation onsite, inject some fun into the working environment. This encourages greater relaxation and enjoyment at work, increasing team morale. CEOs can build upon this new atmosphere and drive further innovation by finding unique ways to create friendly competition among teams.

If your employees are not taking educated risks, innovation has probably come to a grinding halt in your organisation. As CEO, building that safety net and using it is your key to creating confident and innovative teams.

Need some additional help around the idea of the safety net? Get in touch today and find out how executive coaching can help you change the culture around risk.


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