10 ways to spur innovation
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Posted by: Barbara Francella
By Simma Lieberman
In this era of speed, competition and globalization,
innovation rules all. You never know where the next great product, process or
profit builder will originate. Good diversity management and culturally intelligent
leadership can make the difference between repeatedly hearing mediocre ideas
from the same people or mining the hidden genius in your organization for
Consider these 10 ways that a culturally intelligent leader
who practices good diversity management can plant the seeds of self-leadership
and accelerate employee innovation:
1. Be conscious of the way you communicate with employees. Ask
yourself, "Are they comfortable talking to me about their work, asking
questions and giving me suggestions?" If the answer if no, you need to
find out why. If yes, keep getting better at it.
Related: 3 quick reminders for leading a diverse team
Innovation often comes from the lower levels, but if you
don't know how to communicate with everyone, they won't share ideas or feel
invested in the organization.
2. Make a habit of interacting with the people on your team
whom you may not know well, or with whom you are least comfortable. Identify
the reasons for your discomfort, so you can move through it.
3. Be informed about your employees, but don't micromanage.
Acknowledge the progress, no matter how small, made by people on your team. Research
by Theresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer shows that employees are motivated
when their managers are aware of and acknowledge even their small wins.
4. Be introspective and get real about your biases and
assumptions. Your behavior that results from those biases and assumptions can
impede participation and innovation. Ask yourself, "Whom am I not seeing?
Do I greet all of my employees or just the ones who are like me? Do I walk past
any employees without saying hello? Who am I not hearing from in team meetings,
and whose opinions am I minimizing, due to bias about work level, function or
Your bias and assumptions about people different than you
mean that you give credibility to people most like you and minimize the
contributions of others. When employees feel unacknowledged and invisible they
lose their motivation, and feel alienated from the organization.
5. Learn and recognize the different ways in which people
are intelligent and contribute to the organization. Stop being stuck in
recognizing and respecting only one type of intelligence (yours).
6. Let other people share their expertise, talent and
experience, even when their ideas differ from yours. You may find their idea is
7. Let go of old parameters, limits and processes for
innovation. Open your mind, expand your vision and allow for limitless
possibilities when people who think differently start thinking together.
8. Create opportunities for employees from different
functions, departments, levels of experience and talents to work together as
equals. Managers who expect employees to "go along with the program"
and just follow orders discourage creativity and innovation. When creative
employees feel stifled, they will take their genius to another organization,
possibly your competition, where they can flourish.
9. Welcome the
excitement that comes from the synergy of ideas flowing from all directions. Employees with diverse viewpoints building on each other's brilliance will develop "the next big thing" that will set you far above everyone
else in the industry.
10. Be a cheerleader for other people's intelligence when
they know more about a subject or work area than you do. Who better to develop
a process that makes their work faster, easier and more productive than the
people actually doing the work? Who better to suggest a new product that
changes lives than the people who will use it?
Cheer for yourself, because you're the kind of leader who is
brave enough to let others shine and stays out of the way of oncoming
Simma Lieberman, internationally known as "The Inclusionist” is a
diversity and inclusion and culture change consultant, speaker and coach.
Views expressed in blogs, posts and user
comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions
of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and corporate
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