PMI Bangalore Chapter

PM Article 2019

What kills “Innovation”?

Bindu Bhatia

MD & Founder of NeuCode Talent Academy, she has spent last 20 years in Leadership development, Coaching and driving talent & gender diversity agenda for multinational clients across industry sectors and geographies

We can’t see it, but we can definitely feel it and maybe unconsciously or consciously ignore it too!

It’s the “Undercurrent of Emotions” in a room full of people where we are expecting creative problem solving or innovation!

Fear of being ridiculed, being wronged, of being rejected or judged – are few of the emotions that prevail in almost all crucial meetings.

If you are a leader who wants to build a culture of innovation, here are 5 ways in which you can make it happen!

1. Make “FAILURE” a comfortable discussion: Have at-least one forum/meeting in a week or month, where there is a mandate for all the leaders and members to start with “What they failed in, and what they learnt out of it? It could be something in the recent past or anytime in life. It could be professional or even something personal!”

2. Micro-observe discomforts and address them: During your meetings, observe the undercurrents, discomforts brought by people through behaviors like disgraceful interruptions, disrespectful remarks and facial expressions, smirks, funny and/or hidden comments. Bring it to the forefront or handle it offline. Observe the trends and do what is appropriate (empathize and respect), build team norms, set expectations. Negative behavior elicits fears and vulnerabilities in others and holds them back from sharing their thoughts.

3. Allocate appropriate time to discuss the “EMOTIONAL TEMPERATURE” in the room: This is a brilliant idea from 6 Thinking Hats, where 30 seconds of time is allocated for people to just say how they are feeling… ONLY FEELING. Use the emotional vocabulary if required. Search Google for “Emotions wheel” – and take a print if required. An enhanced emotional vocabulary leads to better EQ in people. Rule is “No explanation, rationalization or defense by anyone about the emotion, just the word describing it!” and “Respect everyone’s emotion”. 

4. Use Silent idea generation: This method is for problem solving or brainstorming – Where do you get your most ideas? The probable answers are – while in the shower, while walking, before sleeping, early morning etc. The common part about these answers is that the best ideas come when you are “ALONE”. This leads us to a question. Why do we want everyone to come up with their best ideas in a group discussion set up at work? A better way to generate multiple ideas without any emotional barriers and to utilize the maximum workforce potential, is to throw open the challenge statement, and ask the group to take few a minutes and write their best ideas on post-its. If you want to save time, write some obvious ideas on the board and ask them to think beyond those already obvious ideas!

5. Treat EACH idea with respect: Now this is the last straw and most of the facilitators fail to manage this part. The moment a group or member see an idea that doesn’t make sense to them, discussion starts happening about why it’s not the right one. That is a perfect recipe to kill the innovation and creativity culture. The team rule must be laid carefully about NOT COMMENTING on the ideas. Instead, vote for the top ideas and keep narrowing the funnel.

Special note for the leaders/facilitators:

When you call upon your teams to share ideas, keep in mind the following – 1. Share your idea(s) in the end, if required

2. Be as neutral as you can for all good and bad ideas being generated in the room (just be appreciative of the process and how everyone is contributing)

3. Even in normal meetings, leave people with an inspiring challenge to reflect and think upon. Just throw open some reflective questions for them to think through

4. Show respect to failure and appreciate risk taking even if the results weren’t as expected

PS : Follow the same rules at home with children too!