I've seen many managers inadvertently kill creativity in their employees either because they are close-minded, or because of their frantic efforts just to get work done by a deadline. Managers can learn to maximize creativity without killing it in the process. One way to stimulate creativity is to give employees new and challenging assignments, but not so difficult they feel overwhelmed. Be sure to give them specific goals but do not dictate how they should be met. They will likely use their creativity if you give them the freedom to decide how to climb a mountain. This is an effective way to ignite the fire under some of the employees who are average performers and turn them into Achievers as they will feel they are contributing to the decision-making.
If you are a manager seeking new ideas and solutions to problems in your company or association, create a task force of people from different departments to assist you. Let them set up their meeting times, ground rules and agenda. Each person should be the "voice" in their department. Be sure you include individuals with different areas of expertise and thinking styles, as this diversity will stimulate discussion and help produce innovative ideas. You'd be surprised to see the strategic ideas these task force groups come up with. Just ask Harley-Davidson or ITW. They will tell you the key to their success over the last ten years is due "Employee Involvement.
High-performers are attracted to organizations that have a high level of employee involvement, where they can participate in idea-sharing and problem-solving sessions like those we discussed in our chapter on creativity. Establish self-directed teams or task forces to help in this area. Don't make the mistake of asking only your Achievers to partake in these sessions. All your people need to feel they play a vital role in your organization and should also have a voice in the decision-making process.
One of my clients, a CEO in the telecommunications industry, uses an interesting technique for idea sharing. He has each of his executives practice hands-on role reversal with three different employees once a month for structured discussions. Here are their ground rules...
When employees offer suggestions and recommendations for solutions, the company needs to make sure they ACT on those ideas. I believe it would be insincere to ask employees to participate in decision-making and then ignore their input. If you determine that you simply cannot act upon employees' suggestions, then honestly explain why their ideas cannot be enacted upon. Whenever possible, find parts of their solutions that are viable or elements that can be implemented in the future. Be sure to praise your people for any ideas they offer to keep them creatively charged. They need to know their efforts are appreciated. When you do, you'll be amazed at how they will come forth with ideas that can help your company survive through tough times, implement change, better serve your customer, and more. All of these will help you to move into a better future.
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