What to do if your team is in a rut

Another brainstorming session, another slew of tired ideas. How can you push your team to be more creative and bring in new perspectives? SPONSORED CONTENT
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October 19, 2014 |
Steven Burns

Photo: Ambro via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Another brainstorming session, another slew of tired ideas. How can you push your team to be more creative and bring in new perspectives?

Here are some ways to get your team’s creative juices flowing, from a recent Harvard Business Review blog post.

Diagnose and fix any obvious problems?

Think about when, where and how your team has been most innovative in the past. Can you recreate that environment or group dynamic? “Figure out how people share ideas, and how open others are to those ideas,” says Business Consultant and Author Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg, who also suggests looking at ideas that were generated in the past to see if any are worth resuscitating. “Maybe it was a good idea before its time or maybe it was an idea that was not managed well.”

Focus your team’s attention?

Direct your team’s attention toward solving a narrow problem — for example, ways to fix a specific customer issue or to generate 2 percent cost savings in your division. “Define the task so your team is very clear on what it is trying to accomplish,” says Innovation Consultant and Author Scott Anthony. “Constraints are the greatest enablers of creativity.” 

Bring in different points of view?

Create opportunities to expose your team to different perspectives and points of view. Consider touring the offices of companies in different industries or inviting employees from other parts of your business to regularly present ideas to your team. The point is “to touch and interact with people who are thinking differently,” Anthony says. “The magic happens when different skills and mindsets collide.”

Share relatable examples of success?

“Shine a spotlight on innovative things that have already been done in your organization,” says Anthony. 

Conquer your team’s fear of failure?

One of the most common reasons for stagnation is not your team’s lack of ideas but their fear that the ones they have aren’t any good. “’Manage the politics” around brainstorming,” says Wedell-Wedellsborg. “Make sure there’s room for people to share ideas in a way that’s under the corporate radar.” 

Create avenues for ideas to have an impact?

Ideas only matter if you act on them. Anthony suggests setting aside a small budget to create rough prototypes and simulations, or relieving workers of some duties to free up their time for new projects. 

Avoid using the word ‘innovation’?

Instead of the i-word, encourage your team in language that’s meaningful to them. “Don’t frame it to your team as coming up with ideas for an ‘Employee Retention Innovation Plan,’” says Wedell-Wedellsborg. “Frame it as a ‘Making Your Company a Better Place to Work Strategy.’ That’s something most people can get on board with.”

Read more from Harvard Business Review.

Steven Burns | The Business Behind Design

Steven Burns, FAIA spent 14 years managing the firm Burns + Beyerl Architects, and during that time the firm’s earnings grew at an average rate of 24% per year. After founding his own software company, Steve took his management expertise to BQE Software, where he is refining their business strategy and product development for the company’s groundbreaking project accounting solution, BQE Core.

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