Stop Hiding! Don’t Fear the Future: The 4 Characteristics of Innovation
When it comes to nailing down just what it is that makes a company excellent, four characteristics stand out: collective passion, craftsmanship, “fear no more,” and the right team.
Achieving ‘Fear No More’
Your goal should be to create a culture where employees can take smart risks. They can start — and finish — projects when it makes sense. In an innovative culture, failure is rewarded and sometimes even celebrated as a necessary step to success.
Psychologists sometimes group people into two types: people who live in fear and dispense fear all their lives, and people who live in love and dispense love all their lives. We all know both of these types. And to achieve the right culture, management needs to do the latter (that thing about the love).
Positive reinforcement, and even delivering bad news with a soft touch and a “here’s how things can work better next time” can certainly help. Managing fear properly in an organization is a lot like providing a positive environment for children — an environment where it’s okay to make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, and not feel like they have to lie or work around you to get what they want.
So give your employees a little empathy and love, reference success, and assume they’re doing good instead of doing bad, and you’ll build a culture based on success, not fear.
Achieving the Right Team
Some businesses may be small enough to carry on as one-man bands, but it’s not likely to be the case for long — especially if a business is destined for success. So, I believe that successful innovation is highly dependent on having in place a good team — and the right team, with the right mindset.
The right team has energy, collective enthusiasm, and diverse skills and personalities. These are interesting people, and they interest each other. And they can all put their own interests and rewards aside to honor one common bond: the interests of the customer. They are externally focused individuals, other-centric individuals who interact easily with others and realize that, in many situations, one plus one equals three.
Finding such people isn’t easy, because these attributes are almost indiscernible on a resume. It’s all about finding out what kinds of experiences these people have had with others, and with helping others — whether it was in a business setting, or while rock climbing on a 1,000-foot granite face. Signs of customer involvement and team involvement in the past should be observed. And of course, positive, forward verbal language (we and us instead of I, me, they, and them) and body language are all plusses.
A successful team culture shouldn’t rely 100 percent on the individuals in the team. Of course, the environment created by management is extremely important. People need the chance to act and interact in positive team settings — at work and at play. Team-oriented organizations have group functions, basketball courts, gyms, and organized after-work events. Teamwork is encouraged — and teams are built through team-building events. Team-oriented organizations consider these items as investments, not expenses, and they are all part of the investment an organization makes in keeping ahead of the game.
The Critical Role of Leadership
It wouldn’t be surprising if, by now, you’ve concluded that a lot of what I’m talking about with respect to culture is really a matter of leadership. External focus, passion, craftsmanship, creating a safe environment in which to innovate, and building the right team are all outcomes of smart, properly focused, compassionate, and effective leadership.