You wouldn't dream of running your business without productivity goals, standards or key performance indicators. Yet when it comes to the early stages of innovation - brainstorming and idea generation in particular - a lot of business leaders don’t know what to do. They give their staff a bunch of whiteboards, ping pong tables and bean bag chairs and hope for the best.
Building a culture of innovation isn't magic. While the creative process is sometimes mysterious there are definitely things you can do to manage the process and promote better outcomes. Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to provide the right kind of employee recognition for employees on your creative teams.
1. Recognize Creative Work in General
Innovation by it’s nature means looking for ideas that are outside what is currently “business as usual.” Going beyond social and workplace norms makes most of us uncomfortable. We tend to gravitate toward norms, going so far as to ostracize people whose behavior strikes as as “wacky” or unusual. There’s a certain amount of fear that goes along with presenting new ideas.
“Creative types” who can regularly deliver effective new ideas are sometimes branded as temperamental, flighty, easy to offend and shut down. In fact, creative team members are struggling between ideas that just might work and ideas that are likely to pass muster with C-level leadership.
To start, give your creative development teams a boost by recognizing the work they do. Personal recognition is the first step toward creating a culture where great ideas are generated, noticed and go on to become great practices.
2. Recognize “Assists” as Well as “Hits”
It’s natural for top performers to want to contribute only the best ideas. This drive to do our best at all times contributes to a phenomena that’s been called “social loafing.” People in a creative team hang back when they think their participation isn't needed.
You can help get more people involved when you recognize people for their overall participation as well as the quality of their work. Be specific in your praise. A blanket “thanks for coming” doesn't really tell employees that their particular contributions were meaningful. Saying “thanks for contributing ideas X, Y and Z” lets participants know that their ideas, while maybe not chosen in the end, were worth putting out there.
3. Recognize Contributions to the Idea Discussion
Of course the overall goal isn't to fill a whiteboard with a bunch of marker ink. It’s important to notice and praise ideas that stand out. With TemboSocial Ideas for instance, these are the ideas that get voted up, even if they are not ultimately implemented.
4. Make it Public
Personal recognition is crucial. It’s also important for individuals to know that the team, or in some cases the entire organization, sees the value of their contributions. When recognition of team performance is made public, individuals go on to be more productive within the group. Without public recognition, team members tend to be less productive in a collaborative setting than they are on their own.
It really is amazing how just how important recognition can be to your creative teams. The key thing is to let participants know that you see what they are doing and value their efforts at every stage of the game. When you do that, they’ll naturally want to step up their game and contribute more.