5 Tips to Help Your Team be More Creative

Today’s guest post is from Mark Miller. Mark, co-author of Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life, is vice president, training and development, for Chick-fil-A. He began his Chick-fil-A career in 1977 working as an hourly team member. He is the author of The Secret of Teams and is the coauthor of The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do with Ken Blanchard. Follow Mark Miller on Facebook and Twitter. For more information please visit http://greatleadersgrow.com and http://greatleadersserve.org.

In today’s challenging economic times, creative thinking is more valuable than ever. Not creative for creativity’s sake — creativity to solve real business problems. Many of the ideas of the past are no longer relevant. As a seasoned leader shared with me recently, “The half-life of ideas is decreasing rapidly.” So what’s our response? We need more and better ideas. The good news: creating new, value-added ideas is what teams do best. However, creativity in a team environment is not automatic. There are some things that leaders can do to increase the creative output of their team. Here are a few ideas to get you started . . .

Expect it — When you establish the role of your team, be sure to highlight the expectation that the team will create fresh, new solutions to the problems you face.

Train it — The skills of creativity can be learned. To learn them, they must be taught. Schedule time to conduct training for your team. This can take many forms. It can be as brief as a micro session on effective brainstorming (before your next brainstorming session) to multi-day training sessions and everything in between. The point is simple — train your team on the skills of creativity.

Practice it — Creative thinking and problem solving are skills — just like golf, tennis or a foreign language. Like any skill, you get better with practice. Look for opportunities for your team to practice the skills you’ve learned. Practice builds competence and competence builds confidence.

Recognize it — The actions that you reward will be repeated. That’s human nature. That’s one reason you need to recognize not just the successes but the effort as well. Not every creative endeavor will be successful. That’s normal. If you’ve been operating in a culture in which creativity has not been valued, recognizing creative effort will be even more critical. People are paying attention. They want to know if it’s really safe to voice new ideas.

Model it — People always watch the leader — whether we want them to or not. Do your people see you embracing creative ideas? Do they see you engaged in the process of creating new ideas? You can accelerate the adoption of creative thinking as a skill if you personally get in the game. If you don’t, you’ll need to temper your expectations of groundbreaking new ideas from your team.

Teams are probably at their best when they’re engaged in the creative process. They are leveraging their collective wisdom and experience to create what previously did not exist. One of the most satisfying and productive things leaders can do is create the conditions to harness this creative potential. Start today and get ready to be amazed at what your team will do!

© 2012 Mark Miller, co-author of Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life



Will’s 7 Ways to Keep Innovation Alive

In a past life, I had the honor of working on a special project team responsible for a company-wide initiative. The team leader was an extraordinary gentleman who knew his stuff…and leadership. He had assembled an eclectic team of high performers and knew how to lead the group in churning out remarkable results.

So remarkable in fact that the team was asked to remain together and take on another assignment. Everyone agreed to do so and again exceeded corporate expectations for the work product. As one might expect, corporate headquarters asked the team to handle a third initiative. To everyone’s surprise, the team leader said “no, it’s time to disband.”

Some thought he was foolhardy, others said he was just plain crazy. A few understood the wisdom of what he did.

7 reasons to disband

Will offered up seven reasons why disbanding the team was the right thing to do:

  1. If you only work and interact with people who think just like you do, you stop growing. You gotta mix things up.
  2. Innovation is a team sport, not the domain of a singular group. Don’t let institutional mindset rot set in.
  3. Maintaining surprise and magic with an ongoing intact team gets harder and harder as process, practices and protocols slip in (no matter how hard you try to keep things loose). Sometimes well-oiled machines get stuck in a rut.
  4. Share the spotlight. Provide opportunities for others to be involved, test their abilities and network across the organization.
  5. New problems need new teams with new skills and new ideas. One size doesn’t fit all; meaning no matter how good the skill sets are of a hand-picked team, those skills may not be useful in solving a wide range of problems.
  6. Innovation benefits from agility which benefits from fresh eyes.
  7. Special projects assignments are short-term. It’s time to return to the fold and re-join your old team. It’s time for a changing of the champion role. That’s what improvement is all about, letting others share in fostering the climate for innovation.

What do you think of Will’s list? Are there items you would add, change or delete? Please share!


How Amy Got Her Big On

Today’s guest post is from Amy Diederich, my fellow instigator in making a positive difference. Here she tells her story about why she was inspired to get involved with Get Your BIG On.

As far back as I can remember I have been goal driven. I worked my way through college holding down two jobs. I completed my degree graduating Magna Cum Laude. I won a full scholarship to pursue my masters degree. I completed that degree Summa Cum Laude while still continuing to hold down two jobs.  Once I had my masters I jumped into corporate America. I worked hard to move up the corporate ladder and did. I have always had the drive to own my own business.

I am first and foremost an entrepreneur and inventor. I am the daughter of a prolific inventor and entrepreneur. My father always encouraged his kids to start their own businesses. Three of his four children are entrepreneurs.

Starting BIG

In 1999 I left corporate America and started my own consulting firm, A-Squared Consulting. I am proud to say we were successful. We always operated in the black and always had plenty of business. My clients list was impressive: Adelphia, Vonage, and Comcast, to mention just a few.

In June of 2010 I felt compelled to merge my company with Jane Perdue’s (a former boss, client, and current mentor).   Jane shared her story of the pivotal moment when her boss refered to her as Aunt Polly.  This story hit a cord. You see I also had the proverbial whack on the head.

My Whack On the Head

A-Squared consulting did sales training at the company where my husband is CEO.  One day  I was introduced to a new senior leader who had just joined my husband’s team. After my role of sales consultant was explained, he commented to my husband, “How nice you given the ‘little woman’ something to keep her busy!” I was speechless! I don’t find myself speechless very often. I wanted to say well I agreed to work with this company to help my husband. My other clients are all fortune 500 companies.  The next few responses that came to me are not G-rated!  Any of the potential retorts that came to my head, however deserved, felt really shallow. I decided I will not say anything, but I will let my actions and results prove I had not been “given” anything.

I believe most people have had that time in their life where someone intentionally or unintentionally tried to make them feel little. For me Get Your BIG On is about helping people get past those moments and push through to live their BIG dream. When Jane contacted me I came to the conclusion that I had realized my dream and now it was time to give back and help others. I want to share how my dad inspired me to Start BIG! Give others the moxie to help them reach out for their dreams!

Get Your BIG on is designed to help you succeed in achieving YOUR dream. Your dream can be starting a company or simply starting a project. As the President of the Braithewaite Innovation Group, I get the chance to interact daily with people who are starting entrepreneurial adventures. I love to encourage them, help them find their market, and connect them with others who are chasing their dream. Please spend some time on our site. See what we have to offer. If there is something you need help with, we are happy to help!

My new dream is to help others see a new possibility, a new connection or relationship that will spark the next great invention or business.