Organisational and management-related impediments to innovation can be pretty debilitating, but so are those that exist on a team level.
For teams to be effective at collaborating and innovating together, they need to have solid information sharing processes and a good amount of elbow room for experimentation.
Both of these elements are indispensable in facilitating fruitful innovation efforts; teams that hold back information from one another and don’t have sufficient autonomy can often find their innovation attempts crippled. To that end, here’s how to use team dynamics to improve processes and drive collaborative, innovative behaviour.
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Having a shared sense of psychological safety is vital to ensure that team members don’t hold back on the kind of information sharing that’s vital to the innovation process.
Innovation necessitates continuous improvement, which in turn requires a constant flow of constructive criticism. Without psychological safety, people tend to become over-defensive and unreceptive to feedback much more quickly.
Effective communication is crucial in promoting innovative collaboration, but it can’t happen if people are reluctant to take interpersonal risks at work. Managers have the responsibility of being the kind of leaders that Simon Sinek advocates for: those who make their people feel safe.
Encourage everyone to approach innovation as a means of learning and growth. This also reframes failure and helps people to be more willing to voice contrary opinions for the sake of progress.
Make it clear that every idea contributed will be treated respectfully. Additionally, devise strategies to help quieter team members participate more without making them too uncomfortable.
According to a 2010 study, innovative behaviour is primarily motivated by intrinsic motivation, especially during the ideation and experimentation stages. In other words, the less self-motivated you are, the less likely you are to innovate.
Stifling your employees with a lack of flexibility, in particular, is a sure way to decrease their self-motivation and eventual desire to innovate. Rigid organisational hierarchies and too much interference, for example, greatly discourage innovative behaviour.
MIT’s Sloan Management Review describes managerial styles that emphasise autonomy as those that “give tools and guidance [for innovation] at times of need, but… minimise interventions to allow for creative exploration and experimentation.”
Bottom-up innovation initiatives that provide high degrees of autonomy are often successful in effecting stellar innovation. Some of Google and Facebook’s most successful product innovations, including GMail and Facebook’s News Feed, were products of bottom-up initiatives.
These initiatives, in turn, were facilitated by innovative company policies that gave employees the freedom to pursue their own interests at work and facilitate the kind of organic collaboration that is crucial for innovation.
Innovation is impossible without creative problem-solving. When teams consist of people who share similar thinking styles, though, they tend to have a harder time thinking out of the box.
Conversely, when there’s a good mix of perspectives and information-processing styles within a team, it facilitates creativity without sacrificing analytical thinking.
Cognitively homogenous teams also tend to be more vulnerable to groupthink. For the sake of maintaining consensus, they tend to converge prematurely on a given idea without thorough reasoning. It can drastically lower the quality and quantity of the team’s discussion content, which then potentially reduce innovativeness.
Team members can help to hedge against groupthink by: