4 Managerial Tips That Will Make You More Innovative

Innovation is a funny thing. Everyone classifies the charismatic founder of a successful startup as an innovator. After all, how can an idea survive in today’s fast-paced world without the right cutting-edge thinker behind it? But what about other types of employees? Why don’t we expect middle-managers to have the same risky, yet revolutionary way of thinking?


Maybe it’s because employees in management positions are supposed to be sensible and grounded. However, that out-dated mindset is stifling innovation at all company levels.


survey by Root Inc. found that 46 percent of employees don’t take chances in their work because of a perceived lack of support from their superiors.


It’s time for managers to start thinking and acting like innovators. Not only so they can lead by example and inspire others to think outside of the box, but also so they can make sure their company has the necessary competitive edge.


Here are four managerial tips that will help you think like an innovator:


1. Use the skills you forgot you had.


Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager report found the number one reason employees are promoted to a manager role was because they were already successful in a nonmanagerial position. However, becoming a manager involves a shift in the skill set you use everyday. That means no longer doing a lot of the things you used to be great at because you’re now focused on running and organizing your team.


Don’t forget where you came from.


By making a conscious effort to continue to draw upon your non-managerial skills, you’ll keep a wider perspective on situations and problems. In fact, reflecting on past experiences can be a great way for you and your team to find and develop new opportunities for innovation.


Doing journey mapping with your team is a great way for you to zoom out from the day-to-day processes. It allows you to view things from a variety of perspectives, including your customer’s, at a high level.


Taking time as a group to examine the journey of a project allows you to see where decisions went right and areas that need improvement. It can lead to some big revelations on how to simplify your company.


2. Redefine how you view failure.


Innovation goes hand-in-hand with experimentation. The problem is when an experiment doesn’t turn out as you hoped, there could be some serious consequences.


But that’s only true when you overscale your experimentation. For example, if you invest a lot of time and resources on a new idea and the project fails, there can be an enormous loss. When you take on smaller tests, however, each failure means less.


Take Intuit, for instance. The company used to run seven experiments about its online Turbo Tax program each year. Now they do around 165 experiments just in the three month tax-filing season. These tests aren’t designed to create an entirely new project or idea, but rather to prove what changes will result in improvement. These “high-velocity experiments” lead to quicker, more decisive decisions and less harmful failures.


To paraphrase Thomas Edison: it isn’t about how many times you fail, but what you do after you find those 10,000 ways that didn’t work.


3. Always be open to learning.


As any innovator can tell you, inspiration can come from anywhere. That means learning about things outside of your wheelhouse. New trends and technologies developing in other industries might not apply to your company this moment, but that doesn’t mean they can’t.


Having more knowledge about what’s going on in the world will give you more information and perspectives when problem-solving.


In my case, none of my companies have ever had anything to do with the automotive industry. But the way Tesla involved customers in their development process intrigued me. Unlike many other companies that simply release finished projects, Tesla customers put down deposits before development is finished. They then receive updates on the car and its technology, essentially involving them with the product development.


This made me rethink the pricing structure at Coplex. We now offer “sprints” or short periods of time with a cross-functional team of designers and developers but we require a deposit to reserve your spot in line with the team. This customer-funded pricing model was the most substantial needle-mover in the past five years of the company.


4. Give credit where credit is due.


One of the best managerial tips out there is to give credit where it’s due. But that’s even more important when it comes to innovation.


In order for innovation to truly thrive in a workplace, everyone needs to feel confident that they’ll get recognized for their great ideas. Unfortunately, a 2015 survey by Interact found that 63 percent of employees said not being recognized for their achievements was a communication issue they’d experience with their managers. Forty-seven percent reported leaders taking credit for other’s ideas.


A truly innovative leader understands that, in their role, it’s just as important to facilitate an idea as to have come up with it on their own.


Take the time to listen and acknowledge your team's ideas. Share their success stories with the rest of the team, and make sure they know how their contribution has positively impacted the company.

(This blog was first published on LinkedIn and is reposted here with prior permission from Ilya Pozin.)

(Image Courtesy: Pixabay.com)

Categories: Leadership

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Ilya Pozin

Ilya Pozin founded his first company, Ciplex, at the age of 17. The digital marketing and creative agency caters to ...

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