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April 05, 2012
6 Tips for Inspiring Innovation Among Work Teams

The biggest roadblocks to organizational breakthroughs are a shortage of fresh thinking and too much red tape, according to executives interviewed for a recent Robert Half survey.

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More than one-third (35 percent) of the 1,400 chief financial officers surveyed said a lack of new ideas is the greatest barrier to their company being more innovative. Approximately one-quarter (24 percent) of respondents cited excessive bureaucracy as the top creativity killer, while 20 percent blamed being bogged down with daily tasks or putting out fires.

"Innovation is the driving force behind every successful business," says Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. "Managers should do their best to stretch and challenge their teams to combat complacency."

Messmer adds, "Build in time for brainstorming sessions and other activities that help employees step outside their comfort zones and daily routines."

Robert Half offers these six tips for inspiring innovation among work teams:

  1. Engage the entire team. Empowered employees tend to be more innovative because they have a bigger emotional stake in the firm's success. Cultivate a culture in which staff at all levels can easily share solutions for improving the business. Maintain an open-door policy and also encourage people to offer ideas in meetings, through an internal website or even an old-fashioned suggestion box.
  2. Remove the red tape. Examine internal processes to ensure company procedures aren't generating unnecessary red tape. Employees become disillusioned when they put their time and energy into devising ingenious ideas only to wait forever for them to be approved and implemented.
  3. Keep it collaborative. A healthy level of competition between employees can spur innovation. But if a workplace becomes too competitive, team members may be reluctant to speak up for fear that their suggestions will either be stolen or ridiculed. Create policies that support the open exchange of information and a team-first atmosphere.
  4. Build a better brainstorm. Too many potentially great ideas are discarded prematurely in brainstorming meetings. Rein in the naysayers who relish in saying why novel proposals won't work. Support "blue-sky thinking."
  5. Give 'em a break. Burnout does not beget brilliance. When employees are consistently overworked, they're likely to have more "uh-oh" than "a-ha!" moments. Implement programs that promote work-life balance, and consider bringing in temporary professionals during peak activity periods to keep your team fresh and focused.
  6. Seek inspiration. As a leader, you set the tone. You'll have difficulty motivating staff to ignite creative sparks if you're feeling uninspired yourself. Research shows a person in a relaxed, positive mood has more innovative thoughts. Feeling the pressure? Occasionally get away from your desk and unplug by going for a head-clearing stroll.
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