As a startup founder and investor, it’s not enough for me to merely value innovation and creativity; I must also manage the hazards associated with new ideas. After all, employees who routinely bring novel ideas to their colleagues are likely to experience more rejection, failure, and even embarrassment than others in their career. The question is, how do you encourage your team to innovate despite the risks?
Ultimately, I’ve learned that my personal values alone can’t create a robust culture of innovation. For example, at my company, a social media editor recently started noticing a persistently dismissive attitude coming from certain quarters regarding her collaborative projects. In one extreme case, she was mortified when a project—a stylized promotional video—was scrapped over what boiled down to the employees’ editing choices. Team members lambasted the video, getting it pulled without offering constructive criticism beforehand.
Imagine if that were our response to every lost sales lead or dip in quarterly performance; it would be both paralyzing and counter-productive.
In the workplace, encouraging creative problem solving is far easier in theory. By taking the needed steps to alleviate any overpowering fear of failure, you can steer your team onto the right path. Here’s what I did to turn our office culture around and encourage employees to share their ideas without worrying about rejection.
Lead by Consensus: Put Feedback on the Meeting Agenda
My team used to email one another to get feedback. Besides being inefficient, emails offered an easy out for those who preferred to avoid confrontations. Ironically, this silence only increases the risk of failure and can still hurt feelings.
To nip this communication method in the bud, we’ve now placed all projects on the weekly meeting agenda to mandate those uncomfortable conversations. There are now face-to-face discussions about each project, which makes the office a safe space for critical engagement with one another. This, in turn, also produces shared clarity on project design and purpose while generating ideas for improvement and greater results. And with more engagement comes more shared responsibility for both successes and failures.
Manpreet Singh is Founder and President of TalkLocal, a home services marketplace that turns online service requests into a live conversation with the right available business in minutes.
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