Nurturing a State of Innovation
21 November 2017 | 9:43 am
Everyone knows that “Change is constant.” But, most of us have no clue how to lead a team in a way that nurtures the creativity and uncertainty that comes with constant change.
When we think about our own actions, we, as C-Suite leaders, are comfortable (even eager) for change. We love to disrupt an industry, or bring a new technology to bear on an old problem, or find a new group of people to support. It’s dynamic and interesting and attention getting (and money making).
For our teams, though, they work best when there are solid knowns. They know the End Game. They are working in their zone of genius. They contribute. They matter. They have security.
Think of personal relationships. People tend to stay in them (or out of them). I have a friend who is a chronic bachelor. Not because he doesn’t want a relationship, but because now adjusting his life to accommodate a partner is a huge hill to climb. I have other friends who are in serial long-term relationships – they can’t be single. And it’s not that they don’t like themselves, it’s that they are familiar with and enjoy the rhythm of having a partner at home. Sameness equals security for many people.
Business is personal, and that same yearning for the Familiar comes through with your team. And change can threaten those feelings of security.
Additionally, people that are dealing with change that is messing with their Familiar go through a very predictable emotional and intellectual transition. After a time of decline, they enter into a phase of incredible creativity and willingness to see the world in a whole new way. Then, those changes are normalized and become the new Familiar.
Keeping your people in that intellectually creative space is what will serve your organization the best. Your team will be willing to take on new things much easier, and they will have more fun, and be more excited to keep pushing.
So, the essential questions that CEOs must face are:
How do I keep my team in that innovation space for the long term?
To make creativity the Familiar instead of the exception?
And what are the pitfalls to doing so?
The answers to those questions will echo your own experiences, but we, as CEOs, tend to live here. But it’s an entirely different kettle of fish to invite your team to the party.
Be sure you focus on these 5 things:
- Keep the End Game in mind. As long as everything connects with the End Game logically, your team will take it on.
- Allow space for emotional ups and downs. The most challenging part of having your team live in this space is that there can be wide swings between a positive and negative outlook. Some ideas will be great and other will be atrocious. On some days success seems impossible, and on other days success seems inevitable. Be ready to let these swings happen and to step into actively manage them if necessary.
- Celebrate the little things. Because you are in a constant state of change, you rarely have ONE BIG THING that you’re always working on. So, be sure that you’re high-fiving in the hallway over smaller accomplishments.
- Recognize your change types. Some of your people won’t really like all this change business. And that’s okay, but, be aware of who those folks are in your organization, and give them tasks in their zone of genius. Let them pour over stats that no one else wants to touch. You know whom I’m talking about.
- Change fatigue. Change fatigue is a thing for companies that implement change poorly. It tends to crop up when leadership does not include staff, or the change seems arbitrary, unnecessary, unaligned, or dissonant. As long as you connect to your End Game and allow for team involvement, change will be as exciting for them as it is for you.