A warm climate for team innovation – part 2

A warm climate for team innovation – part 2

How can you enable successful innovation with your teams?

We have worked with leaders who have improved their team’s work climate for innovation within 9-12 months, and found that climate is a ‘lead’ indicator of innovation performance. Manage the team climate and the results will follow.

In the previous blog, we looked at a diagnostic called the Situational Outlook Questionnaire (SOQ) – a measure of team and organisational climate for innovation. The first posting reviewed how leaders build greater challenge and involvement, freedom to act and team trust.

In this post, we’ll focus on three other SOQ dimensions:

  • Idea Time: The amount of time people can (and do) use for considering new ideas
  • Humour and Spontaneity: The spontaneity and ease displayed within the workplace
  • Conflict: The presence of personal and emotional tensions

4. How to overcome the lack of time

In recent years of work, the lack of time for idea development has become the most commonly-quoted obstacle to creativity and innovation. But, for those teams whose idea-time scores improved, they found a number of strategies that worked well enough to make a clear difference to their results. They treat time as a constraint that they simply have to work around, given the importance of their work. They build in time for idea development into everyday process, including team meetings.

Leaders who do this value the personal and professional development of their team members that comes from making innovation happen. Leaders and team members reflect on what they do when they meet, to make that time more useful. They also focus very clearly on work priorities, identifying risks with alternative scenarios and they find ways of experimenting that minimises risk.

This type of restorative leadership allows people time and space to think. It takes proactivity and optimism, and it creates a contagious mood in the team that finds ways around obstacles.

5. Using humour and spontaneity to your advantage

Leaders thinking about humour and spontaneity doesn’t lead to clowns, comedians and joke-telling sessions. They consider their work environment, they build in more interactions between their people; they think about how to make things a little ‘lighter’, to promote more ease with each other. When people start sharing their half-formed ideas, and lose their inhibitions, things start to happen. One director I knew used to remove his shoes at board meetings. I don’t know how it impacted on quality of work, but it made my boss smile.

6. Dealing positively with conflict

Conflict can be tricky. With the SOQ it refers to tensions between people, often expressed as animosity, sometimes in corridor conversations rather than being resolved productively. It blocks innovation because it diverts energy away from the work. It also makes it uncomfortable for other people to be in their presence. People want to dive for cover before the proverbial hits the fan.

Smart leaders emphasise common, collaborative goals and the value of differences. And they don’t see these as a tension. As one said recently, “it’s crucial for us to have something that holds us all together, then we can use our differences for a purpose”. Sometimes the leader will confront the individuals them and warn them that their behavior is hindering the group.

There is no black-box mystery or magic in all this. The actions taken by these leaders follow from need, intent, perseverance and making time/space for exploration. Improving team climate improves team innovation.

In next week’s posting, we’ll focus on how team leaders improve the final three SOQ dimensions:

  • Idea Support: The ways new ideas are treated
  • Debate: The occurrence of encounters and disagreements between viewpoints and ideas
  • Risk-taking: The tolerance of uncertainty and ambiguity exposed in the workplace

© Bluegreen Learning Ltd

Find out how warm your innovation climate is and what you can do to change it.

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