6 Ways Team Leaders Inspire Creativity and Innovation
Continuous change is the norm in most organizations today. Companies are constantly innovating and working to stay ahead of their competition and, in some cases, just to sustain in a changing marketplace. What forces are driving these changes? Technology continues to be the number one driver of change along with socio-cultural, economic, governmental, political and natural disasters (Weiss, 2012). It is extremely important to be adaptable, flexible, and resilient given these forces.
To stay successful and to create positive trends in business during these changing times, organizations rely less on past bureaucratic structures and are relying more on teams. Many teams exist today within the workplace, and they are constantly striving to create new and better ways of doing things. “Teams are the basic structure of how projects, activities and tasks are being organized and managed within companies worldwide. Global organizations strive for competitive advantage and increasingly incorporate the use of high-performance teams to deploy complex business strategies” (Molnau, n.d.).
Reflect for a moment on some of those great teams of which you were a part. What made them unique and successful? How much creativity and innovation emerged? How did your team contribute to the success of your organization?
While everyone plays a role on a team, the team leader must be fully committed to developing creativity and innovation, which will allow the team to find new and better ways to do things. So, let’s assume you have been assigned to be a team lead. Here is a framework you can apply to build and enhance your team’s synergy, creativity, and innovation.
Be a Leader, Demonstrate Presence and Commitment: Leaders inspire, improve, influence, and they have integrity. Engage and connect with your team members and set a welcoming tone. Remember, first impressions are lasting so prepare for your first team meeting and make a good one. Work to set the right tone and establish a positive presence. Team members reflect the tempo of the leader. If the leader cares and is committed usually the team is too. It is important to model the way, talk the walk and walk the talk, and remember, people will watch more how you walk it versus talk it.
Shared Leadership, Vision, and Goals: Inspire a shared vision and shared goals. Explain the purpose and goals of the team clearly. Communicate the purpose of forming the team and clearly state the goals. Reaffirm the cooperative goal of making the best decisions possible for the betterment of the team. Practice the utilitarianism rule; agree to make decisions for the greater good of the team and organization.
Create an Inclusive Process: Embrace diversity; remember everyone has a voice. It is important to promote and reinforce that shared governance and leadership exists within the team. It makes for an inclusive process. Let all members know that everyone’s voice matters. Diverse voices will offer creativity and innovation to the team and make it more adaptive and dynamic.
Promote Controversy: Always show mutual respect and agree to disagree at times to further develop the creative process. Promote controversy among different opinions and perspectives (Johnson and Thomas).
Inspire Critical Thinking: Dr. Stephen Brookfield, an expert in the field of critical thinking, tells us that when we are applying critical thinking, we are examining our assumptions with a healthy dose of skepticism; we are reflecting on why they could be true and why they may be false. By doing this, we are able to proceed forward and take more informed action. We increase the probability of a better decision. We believe that creative problem solving does require open-mindedness, and not bias and stereotypes.
Promote Brainstorming: During this session it is up to the leader to set the tone, to promote building on each others ideas, focusing in on quantity and not quality. The goal here is to generate many ideas during a short time period, so work to encourage divergent thinking. Establish ground rules and tell the group to withhold criticism and evaluation. Promote thinking that is “outside the box” and work to lead and facilitate to produce as many ideas possible in short periods of time.
It is clear to see how when teams work through the above process, collaborate, and combine their skills and thinking, creativity and innovation follow. Building and enhancing creativity and innovation within these team dynamics is an important component for success. Leaders within teams collaborate, embrace diversity, and understand their team members’ strengths and weaknesses. Everyone is committed to develop creativity and innovation to find new and better ways to do things, and that is the value of teams.
Written by Bill Davis and Avisha Sadeghinejad.
Bill Davis is an Instructor in the Forbes School of Business® at Ashford University.
Avisha Sadeghinejad is an Assistant Professor in the Forbes School of Business® at Ashford University.
Brookfield, S.(2012). Stephen Brookfield on Creative and Critical Thinking. You Tube [Video].
Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8umk4w8kB8
Johnson, D.W., & Johnson, F.P. (2006). Group Theory and Skills. Boston, MA: Pearson Education
Molnau, D. (n.d.). High-performance teams: understanding team cohesiveness. Retrieved September 19, 2015, from http://www.isixsigma.com/implementation/teams/high-performance-teams-understanding-team-cohesiveness
Weiss, J.W. (2012). Organizational change. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.