5 Ways to Lead Your Team to Innovation

Contrary to the notion of innovations coming from an individual genius, most breakthrough ideas in an organization come from a group of people working together in a disciplined and focused manner. As a leader of a team tasked with new idea generation, your most important role is to inspire an innovation mindset in order to achieve the best outcomes in terms of a new product or service idea.

Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs

Here are five ways for you to help create an innovation mindset with your team:

1. Leave logic at the door.

Focus on the need or want, but encourage your team members to let their minds wander. There was a time when people flying was beyond logic and now it’s commonplace. So what if an idea goes beyond what’s technically possible right now? The beauty of innovation is that it’s looking well into the future.

2. Be open to whatever connections the team makes.

When we’re observing the world, our brains are taking in more than we can consciously process. If a random idea comes to the team, explore it rather than dismissing it out of hand. Years ago, sitting in Penn Station, I had a thought that people weren’t using their mobile phones as phones anymore. Everywhere I looked over the next few days, I saw people looking at their screens, not talking on the phone. That was a lightbulb moment for me that signaled the start of a changing behavior.

When we’re observing the world, our brains are taking in more than we can consciously process. If a random idea comes to the team, explore it rather than dismissing it out of hand.

3. Ask why. And ask it again and again.

Give your team permission to be a two-year old and ask why all the time. Just because something has been done a certain way for a long time doesn’t mean that’s the only way it can be done. I overheard a young girl in her mom’s shopping cart asking Siri questions. “Siri, where can I play?” “Siri, where are swings?” “Siri, where are my friends?” Observing the world through the eyes of a two-year-old can yield surprisingly fresh ideas.

4. Explain what you are seeing in multiple ways.

This helps push past current perceptions by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Pretend you are writing a story for children. How would a witch describe what she’s seeing? How would a bear describe what it’s seeing? How would an alien, new to Earth, describe what it’s seeing? Changing your perceptions opens your eyes and mind to new ideas.

5. Stop thinking so hard in the same place.

Steve Jobs was famous for taking long walks in the woods around Palo Alto and letting his mind wander in order to problem solve in a different environment. Your innovation team could likely benefit from a similar approach by getting outside the office to jumpstart new ideas.

Cultivating an innovative mindset with these simple techniques can lead to greater success for the team and your organization.

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