30 Sep 2018

By Morey Stettner

Coming up with brilliant ideas is hard enough when you have lots of time. But when you’re under pressure to produce breakthroughs, tension can mount.

Leaders know they cannot demand instant innovation. Instead, they need to nurture a supportive environment for employees to think creatively and experiment freely.

If you’re seeking quick results, create a sense of urgency without setting unrealistic expectations for your team.

To encourage innovation when facing a ticking clock:

Tamp down the frenzy.

Even if you’re privately worried about an approaching deadline or a looming competitive threat, convey outward confidence in your colleagues to come through in the clutch. Calmly explain the need for fast output without adding to everyone’s anxiety.

“When the brain is under stress, it can’t operate as creatively,” said Stephen Shapiro, author of “Best Practices Are Stupid.” To optimize innovation, he suggests alleviating stress for you and your team by taking walks, yoga classes and relaxation breaks.

Simplify the issue. 

Potential innovators operate best when they understand exactly what they’re trying to accomplish. Make their job easier by directing their attention to what matters most — and jettisoning the rest.

“Get your team to rally around the problem that you want to solve,” said Shapiro, a professional speaker based in Orlando, Fla. “The brain loves focus. Otherwise, we innovate by meandering all over the place.”

Adopt counterintuitive measures.

If you’re under the gun, you may demand that employees crank out dozens of ideas immediately. But insisting that they meet a certain quota is misguided.

Shapiro cites a leader who asked associates to propose 40 new product ideas within a week. They couldn’t deliver so much output, so soon.

“He then decided to take them to lay on the grass with notebooks, look up at the clouds and jot their ideas,” he said. “That worked better because they were able to focus on quality, not quantity.”

Convey excitement, not desperation.

When racing against time to devise innovative solutions, emphasize the positive aspects of the situation. Talk about what’s to gain by capitalizing on opportunity rather than conjuring negative outcomes and cautioning your team to avoid a calamity.

“When leaders keep saying ‘Stakes are high’ and ‘Time is tight’ it doesn’t produce the results they want,” Shapiro said. “When pounding people with a threat, they can’t be as creative.”

Ditch formalities.

When confronting a time crunch, abandon standard operating procedures — and free your team to brainstorm in new ways.

“Innovation is unpredictable and can be messy,” said Amy Radin, author of “The Change Maker’s Playbook.” “So set aside the things that have always been done, the processes that are based on predictability and avoiding risk.”

If you usually spur innovation by holding highly structured off-site meetings, for example, replace those retreats with a series of smaller test runs. Staging more short-term trials — and pulling out early if initial results prove underwhelming — encourages bolder experimentation.

Rather than have your team present new ideas using an elaborate slideshow, try sharing ideas in five-minute standup gatherings. That way, you let employees articulate succinctly why their suggestion has merit — and avoid long meetings driven by dense slides.

Maintain an open mind.

Beware of letting your preconceived notions color your judgment. Consider proposals that initially strike you as too vague or imprecise — and give people a chance to run low- or no-cost pilot projects.

“You have to trade off precision for speed,” Radin said.

Read the full article here.
This content was originally published by Investors Business Daily. Original publishers retain all rights. It appears here for a limited time before automated archiving. By Investors Business Daily

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