In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, innovation is the key to staying ahead. That key requires collaboration and creativity because diverse minds working together lead to groundbreaking ideas. Below are five tips for fostering that type of innovation:
Brainstorm as a group
For most people, collaboration in the workplace means brainstorming. Although there’s more to it than that, brainstorming is certainly a great first step. It’s a simple and effective way to generate a huge number of ideas that can be expanded upon later. Furthermore, group brainstorming fosters a sense of inclusivity, which brings its own productive benefits.
To get started with brainstorming, clearly define the problem or challenge you want to tackle. Be as specific and focused as possible. Then, assemble a team with diverse skills, backgrounds, and perspectives, and agree on basic ground rules. Finally, let the ideas flow—generate, record, and refine them before selecting the most actionable ones.
Draw mind maps
Mind maps tap into the benefits of visual thinking, helping you organize all the disparate thoughts, ideas, and concepts you have. Once mapped, you can take a step back and find new connections that, ultimately, lead to innovative solutions.
Start with one project or problem you’re working on. Write this in the center of a big piece of paper or whiteboard. Then, branch out from there. Add subtopics and concepts that relate to your central focus. Consider using simple drawings, images, or keyword phrases that sum up the ideas and connect them in visually appealing ways. Encourage others to do the same, adding their own unique twist. Finally, refine the ideas, prioritize key insights, and create a plan of action.
Collaborate across teams
If you have a marketing problem, it can be tempting to only talk to your marketing team. Sometimes that’s the right approach, but not always. When trying to spark truly innovative ideas, it helps to reach across disciplines and teams, bringing in perspectives from sales, management, and operations alongside marketing. This cross-collaboration breaks down silos and balances the strengths and weaknesses of various teams.
That being said, not all teams are necessary. Start by considering what kind of expertise the challenge requires, and then reach out to those who have that expertise. Clarify expectations, share information, and combine the best ideas from different disciplines. Finally, gather feedback, adapt, and pivot toward the most promising innovations.
Practice design thinking
Design thinking centers on empathy, creativity, and iteration. When done well, it creates solutions to problems that are not only innovative but highly relevant to real people’s needs.
As with the strategies above, design thinking starts with clearly defining a problem and gathering a diverse team. From there, empathize with the people who struggle with that problem—conduct interviews, surveys, and more to better understand their needs, goals, and pain points. Then, generate as many solutions as possible and create prototypes to test. Gather feedback, make design tweaks, and repeat.
Many of the tips above focus on collaborative work within an organization. However, plenty of innovative ideas exist outside your organization as well. Crowdsourcing can help you tap into that collective wisdom.
With a challenge clear in mind, head over to crowdsourcing platforms such as online forums or social media to spread the word. Connect with others, offer incentives to participate, moderate any submissions, and curate the best ideas. Recognize contributors for their excellence, iterate on those ideas, and gather feedback until the most innovative solutions emerge.
Innovative ideas aren’t confined to the minds of geniuses. Instead, they’re something you can foster with collaborative creativity. Apply the five tips above, and get excited about what the future holds!