Driving Innovation with Soft Skills
have proven that any environment characterized by mistrust, judgmental
managers, gossip, and fear of failure would lead to innovation but rather one
that promote psychological safety.
how you can focus on soft skills to build greater psychological safety and
nurture a culture of innovation:
vKnow yourself. Notice
your own responses to new ideas, possibilities, brainstorming, and failure
(your own and others). Are you the one who says, “We tried that before? It
didn’t work”? How strongly do you hold on to the status quo? How much do you really
look for new opportunities and ideas? Adjust your mindset to be welcoming of
idea generation, knowing most new ideas fail and you only need one to succeed
(like how the iPhone changed Apple’s future).
Give people the benefit of the doubt, especially in public and when someone is
taking a risk. Safety is when someone can be vulnerable without fear. Share
vulnerabilities about yourself, when you’ve failed, what you learned. Admit
when you don’t know something or made a mistake.
This includes attempts at innovation. As Albert Einstein said, “Failure is
success in progress.” And as Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just
found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” When an employee shares a mistake or a
failure, ask, “What have you learned?” When a project stops or fails, have a
meeting to debrief about learnings. Positively reinforcing behaviors like smart
risk-taking, learning, and putting one’s head above the parapet will ensure
that they will be repeated.
people feel that they are really being seen and heard as individuals, they are
more trusting. So, listen to what people say and what they don’t say. Listen
for their assumptions and beliefs (both empowering and limiting). By
understanding people better, you can learn about their needs and motivations to
help them feel secure and unleash their potential.
vSay what you want. If
you want more innovation, ask for it. Give people opportunities to innovate and
the parameters within which they can take risks. Empower employees to innovate
within their jobs for increased efficiency and effectiveness. And highlight
where innovation has been happening in the organization or outside.
Coaching helps people find their own solutions. This creates resourcefulness in
them and unearths their ideas. More ideas-yours and theirs-means more options
and potentially better solutions.
Ask questions. Challenge assumptions. Uncover organizational blind spots. Many
people think that if they give the best answer in a meeting, they will appear
to be the smartest person in the room. But my experience is that the smartest
person in the room asks the best question, the one that causes everyone to take
a breath and really think. That’s the place where true innovation
vFoster courage. Courage
is the ability to do something in the face of fear and pain, to face difficulty
and danger. Innovation requires courage as it’s dangerous to try new things.
This might sound similar to the idea of vulnerability above-and that’s because
it is. Courage and vulnerability are two sides to the same coin. You can’t be
courageous without being vulnerable, and vice versa.