What is an Innovative Spirit ? Why it is a critically important factor for team performance?

An innovative spirit is a mindset that actively seeks change rather than waiting to adapt to change. In other words, it’s a super-positive mindset that embraces critical questioning, creative and continuous improvement. It’s about taking ownership and pride in your organization.

In my mind, innovative teams tend to have a more creative or CAN-DO approach to thinking about their products or services, new directions in which to take the team or business unit, and new ways of doing old tasks. During the performance improvement process, innovative spirit helps teams (or business units) grow and evolve rather than become stagnant and stale.

An innovative spirit is also associated with taking calculated risks and, sometimes, failing. This usually means that your team members are working within a budget and that corporate guidelines allow or encourage them to find innovative ways of getting the job done.

In general, this mindset can have amazing effects on profitability and can contribute to increases in employee satisfaction, retention, public image, and productivity.

To have an innovative spirit, you need people who think anything is possible and have the tenacity to accomplish their goals. Regardless of whether you are a senior executive or a junior team member, everyone has a voice that needs to be nurtured, not criticized, to continue bringing creative ideas forth.

An innovative spirit can be classified as a culture of the workplace; thus, team leaders and members are both responsible for creating and maintaining it. But what can team leaders do to create an innovative spirit?

First, WORK AS an owner

All team members should feel empowered to make decisions, and team leaders should let them. Decision-making processes and approvals need to be simplified, and leaders need training in how to hand over the reins and help team members confidently grab them.

Each team member should be tasked with thinking like an owner. When an employee presents an idea, it’s important that their boss and coworkers not shoot it down immediately. In addition, you should ask your team members some questions to better understand their thinking or to build on their ideas, as this encourages them to remain open and share ideas. Even if you ultimately end up walking away from an idea, they’ll understand why.

Whether you push an idea forward or table it, always make it a learning opportunity. In doing so, you drive engagement, which will ultimately fuel creativity and productivity. To keep ideas coming from employees, managers need to respond to every idea and suggestion in a timely and forthright manner so that employees feel their ideas aren’t disappearing into a black hole.

Second, WORK ON some crazy ideas

Some of the most innovative companies, such as Apple, Virgin, Google, and Zappos, have a policy that everyone should feel free to propose any idea they have, no matter how grand or seemingly unattainable. In fact, their chief creative officers keep a “Crazy Ideas” folder, which they review periodically to see the possibilities.

You never know—an idea you can’t use now might be useful later on. Make sure your team members are never afraid to offer an idea, even if it seems crazy.

If a team member comes up with an idea that may not be within the scope of their responsibility, help connect them with the right teams and bring their ideas to life. Whether you’re the boss or a coworker, try to give them that opportunity. It will expand their skills and thinking and drive engagement while ultimately fostering cross-functional teamwork.

Third, WORK WITH cross-functional colleagues

One of the reasons smaller companies are naturally more innovative is that their teams tend to be small enough that everyone has a voice and input on everything, even if it’s not part of their core responsibility or strength. As companies get bigger, departments tend to be segmented off from each other, losing the diversity of ideas, fresh perspectives, and organic innovation that can come from cross-pollination. If you want to generate creative solutions, cross-pollination of ideas is a must.

As companies grow, internal communication becomes more complex and naturally suffers. Companies therefore need to be intentional about their internal communication. If employees are indeed being asked to think like owners, then they need the same level of information that owners receive: they need a clear understanding of the big picture, including all the costs and relevant financial information.

How can employees be encouraged to look for cost-saving opportunities, for example, if they don’t have an accurate picture of all the real costs associated with their business?

Fourth, WORK AS a role model

As with most elements of a great team, the innovative spirit has to come from the top management team or business owner.

Whether you’re in upper management or not, setting an example for yourself and your team can always help trigger more responsive, creative, even crazy ideas around you. In other words, if I’m not open to new ideas and new ways of doing things, how can I expect my team to be open to them?

In general, good questions fuel the creative process and an innovative mindset. As a leader, you can open meetings with a thought-provoking question, you can create a board where team members can write down any query they may have, or you can pose a question of the month to get everyone focused and thinking about a certain aspect of the business.

Final advice

As a team leader, you should always treat yourself as an innovative entrepreneur. Then, your team members will believe they are working in an innovative team.

All the best in your innovative leadership journey!


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