The value system of a company can provide the environment for creativity. People can do their best if their work is: ‘Good for the country, employees, customers.’ Or as the Honda mission statement puts it ‘Joy to the employee, joy to the customer and joy to the country’. The typical corporate atmosphere is competitive and ruthless. People rush to satisfy their selfish desires for glory and the limelight. Anyone standing in the way is viewed with anger and hatred. In such an environment, the individual uses 50% of energy protecting his ego and his turf. So much energy is wasted on one-upmanship and putting others down. The ability of the group to function is therefore severely compromised.
How much better to work in the nurturing environment? Here a person does not feel the separation between himself and others. He wants others to do as well as himself. He competes only with himself in the search for excellence. He acknowledges the champion in everybody. The person does not develop a single-minded infatuation with his own ideas but accepts the reality that others also can have great ideas. It is important to understand that we can have a win-win environment. In such an environment everyone will be willing to take risks and go through the process of failures. He knows that in an experiment, there are no failures - only feedback.
Companies begin to fade when a majority of their people become spectators with a 'chalta hai' or 'let it be' attitude. When a company is a start-up, everyone is an enthusiastic participant. As the company begins to age, its life cycle makes it slow, ponderous and bureaucratic. How to break this cycle? Simple: Open the floodgates of people's minds. Involve everybody. The best ideas come from the grassroots from people who are actually doing the work. Often it is said that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. This is because only 20% of the people are treated as the 'Core' group, the rest are treated as peripheral. The select 'insiders' create a barrier against the participation of the outsiders. If everyone's work can become critical to the company, no one will be a spectator, everyone will be a committed participant.
Work life is so pervasive that often all other aspects of the individual whither away. A key challenge, when companies are tracking stretch goals is maintaining work life balance. Top management would also benefit from attending this presentation. Let each person set their personal goals for the year and share it with a buddy who will work with them for the next 90 days. Let them become familiar with the 4 quadrants of their lives.
Here are some key suggestions.
1. Can Saturday be a day when child friendly facilities are provided? A facilitator creates a Kid power day at ICICI.
2. How can families be involved to support organizational goals?
3. Can social life be improved by corporate social responsibility activities? Try getting everyone to participate in a tree planting day.
4. Can the team be taught Yoga and Meditation?
5. Is a corporate gym or membership to one, like yearlong matches (cricket or Kho Kho) be a possibility.
6. Can a counsellor be on call or can volunteer staff members be trained as counsellors?
7. How can the company enable individual talents to flower. How about a monthly ‘Talent Evening’?
If the teams learn the secret of positive fields or mind space, they can improve their your Happiness Quotient. They can also get the best out of others. Making members of your team wholehearted participants rather than indifferent spectators, is the key to organizational success.
Whole heartedness is a state of full presence. This state involves complete enjoyment of a task. Participation, with full commitment of body and mind, is irresistible. I become wholehearted when I give all of myself to an interaction or task. These interactions create a field, which allows me to be present in the moment, without defensiveness. The most fundamental characteristics of a positive field are, that it quells anxiety and produces feelings of acceptance and a feeling of being affirmed. It is like walking into a room full of people who love and accept you, unconditionally. It is a feeling of being meaningful and safe – this frees up energy for connecting.
An important constituent of the positive field, according to George Prince of Synectics, is affirmations. An affirmation is a verbal, tonal or non-verbal act of appreciation. A compliment can be a verbal hug. A verbal hug can replace a thousand words. The field is most affected by positive, soul level motives or ’Sankalpa’. If the gut level motives are positive, the mere lack of skill in verbal, tonal and non-verbal transmissions can be overcome.
Encourage top management to observe signs of conflict and co-operation. You can understand whether a company is doing well by :
The look in the people’s eyes.
The way they walk
The quality of the interaction.
You can see the effect of the positive field by how people help each other and share information.
Constraint, Control and Compliance, reduces the positive field.
Top down – constraints – cuts out the joy
Bosses should exist to help people win.
Explore co-operation within the organization. Identify conflicts and ask for suggestions to defuse them. Walk around the departments to identify potential problem areas. Encourage small group discussion and bonding.
The change management module provides an opportunity to share information of ways to avoid the negative field. Some of our careless phrases destroy ideas, unconsciously. Remove the negative emotions like anger, fear and revulsion from the team, like thorns from your foot.
Rewarding team creativity enhances teamwork
Share interesting articles.
Appreciate and award good performance even in bad times – this will keep employee morale high
Make every meal an enjoyable experience: improve the place, make it clear colourful and musical. Set dishes out attractively and chew slowly to appreciate the full flavour of the foods you eat.
Ensure that all stake holders start with the same assumptions about what is required. Often each member of the team has limited knowledge about the product, thus reducing his chances of achieving success. They are like the six blind men and the elephant. Each touched a different part of the elephant and mentally imagined the elephant like a fan, a pillar and a large pipe. Some thinking tools like 6M help all stake holders to have a unified vision of the product.
Communication needs to be clear and consistent. The mode of communication should be relevant to the participants. There is no point using e-mail, if when most have no access to the internet. The communication should create excitement. The Innovation Initiative for young executives in Ashok Leyland was kicked off with a contest. The prize an I-Pod. The communication should encourage response. Communication about problems can be through Ideation Corners, where participants are encouraged to write their solutions. Usable solutions should be shared and rolled out across the organization.
Tapping stakeholder creativity (TSC) involves facilitating intense discussion and problem solving between stake holders to reinvent future products and processes. It is a radical new approach which enables companies to include the customers’ or vendors’ voice in developing a product, activity or service and encourages the TSC a tool that involves inventing or shaping the future together with customers. and is a radical new approach.
As this is an unique innovation tool that helps synthesize the ideas of two or more groups with different viewpoints. It enables different teams of the company to participate with internal or external customers in creatively developing the future. TCC enables us to include the customer's voice in developing a product activity or service. This would be ensured by training all participants in creative problem solving , a process which will help achieve continuous improvement as well as quantum change on occasions.
Vendors can rewrite the profit picture of a company by practicing Just In Time Management, quality improvement programmes and innovation initiatives.
We are accustomed to giving our opinions and ideas in an environment where, frequently, every word is greeted with criticism. Such an environment is unfortunately the norm for many business meetings.
Typically we begin by preparing the ground for the idea or point of view we are about to express. Having established an expectant audience you than slip in the idea or opinion and then move quickly to sell it as hard as possible, before anyone can jump in and attack it.
This process for speaking is both time consuming, because of the potential for a high waffle content, and additionally can result in the idea or opinion being lost because your audience have given up listening to you.
While listening to someone who speak, the mind is constantly being stimulated or triggered into thoughts of its own. These thoughts are sometimes directly related to what is being said and often apparently unrelated. Once the mind has been stimulated we tend to give attention to what is going on in the ‘“meeting in the your mind’” (often more interesting than the public one) and ‘“drop out’” of listening to the speaker. Often we will actually be “rehearsing” a response to something the speaker has said, only half listening to the speaker whilst, waiting for an opportunity to make our comment.
The mind is a vast library of information, past experiences and connections, most of which are outside our conscious memory. Thoughts which are stimulated or triggered in the mind when we are listening to someone speak are actually trying to tell us something.
We are taught from an early age that we must always concentrate and not allow our minds to wander. This is the correct way to listen in certain situations. For example if I am listening to directions to get somewhere, I need to listen intently to understand and capture what is being said.
Meetings can waste a lot of time or they can provide an effective way to harvest ideas and ensure buy-in thus empowering the group to achieve greater levels of productivity. Meetings can be an empowering experience if handled well. The effectiveness of a meeting can be enhanced by
1) Having a clear goal for the meeting
2) Circulating the agenda in advance to ensure preparation
3) Having a system to make sure everyone is heard using thinking tools like 6M
4) Recording and implementing decisions and using good ideas
5) Being open to feedback and fresh ideas
It is critical that the innovation initiative is completely supported at the top step by step. Successful innovation requires enormous patience, resources and faith. It is tough without top management support. One of the reasons why innovation initiatives fail, is because of the start-stop effect when there is no long term commitment from the top. Innovation initiatives often become the target of budget cuts at the first sign of trouble.
Score boards should measure progress and celebrate winners.
Involve top management through regular presentations.
They should be part of the steering committee and monthly reviews.
The innovation melas should showcase innovation and innovators.
The cost benefit resulting from innovations should be regularly highlighted.
Thinking tools should be used at the highest levels.
It is important to initially choose actions that lead to fast, obvious results. Keep the investments low, use existing resources. Highlight and celebrate small successes. This creates excitement around the Initiative. Honour achievers. Encourage the workforce through motivating posters. Post results on scoreboards so that the whole organization can track progress.
It is important to bring all the teams together and unite them towards a single goal. The goal should be noble; it should be inspiring and should fill the teams with energy and commitment. The leader could kick things off with an inspiring presentation and ask everyone to give their ideas on how to make this happen.
An open office atmosphere ensures greater productivity.
Start a Humor Club, share a joke on the internet.
Have a hobby or pastime which will keep you going in tough times
Use salt in moderation
Change is as uncomfortable as the pain of unbroken new shoes. If you are serious about the initiative, involve the top management to mentor, to trouble shoot, to remove obstacles. Involve them in planning the Initiative. Ensure that they are part of the monthly rewards event. Their presence in monthly meetings either in person or on videos, will ensure greater engagement and involvement from the team.
Preliminary Steps to ensure a successful innovation initiative
All problem owners make a final presentation of the problem statements and outcomes expected.
Encourage suggestions and debate.
Have clear systems for measurement of results and feedback.
Discuss the possible obstacles in the path of radical change.
Involve top management in the presentation.
Provide open channels of communication : a website, a hot line, a magazine (could be an e-magazine) and face-to-face meetings with top management.
It is critical to ensure that the problem statement is
1) Core, to the business goals of the organization.
2) It is clearly defined and is truly the problem and not just a symptom.
3) That top management is involved in the problem statement process and approves it formally in its final state.
When many commando teams are planning to pursue a single problem the leaders have to support, nurture, mentor, and reward. Without this clarity and whole hearted support, the initiative will falter.
It sometimes happen that junior commando teams choose the problem statement and arrive at solutions. When this is presented to the top management, they receive feedback that the management considers this a problem not worth solving. All the effort is wasted and people dismiss the process as something that does not work in our old fashioned organization.
Dr. Rekha Shetty is Managing Director of Farstar Distribution Network, a unique consultancy company devoted exclusively to innovation and creativity under the brand name Mindspower.She is an author, an entrepreneur and an original thinker. Her long term Innovation Initiative, using 47 thinking tools helps in a steep increase in profits, reduction in costs, while improving customer satisfaction levels and employee participation levels. She is a consultant to ICICI Bank, Ashok Leyland Ltd., Hyundai Motors Ltd., TVS Group, TI Group, Durgapur Steel Plant, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. and other blue chip companies.
In her very first assignment in United India Insurance, she developed a nationally acclaimed advertising campaign. During the last seventeen years, she has specialized in the field of Creativity in Management and developed her own management brand, Mindspower. She was one of Asia’s first women District Governors for Rotary International and was awarded Rotary’s highest Award – Service above Self.
Her fourth book “Innovate! 90 Days to Transform your Business” is under print and will be released by Penguin during May 2010.