The most common concern we hear from leaders: “Our team isn’t innovative enough.”
From marketing to education to product development to service, many teams aren’t coming up with breakthrough ideas. At the O’Briant Group, we’ve seen 8 big reasons teams don’t innovate.
- So many deliverables, so little time. When we’re faced with one deadline after the next, our brains kick into execution mode, and we stop thinking creatively. Teams need dedicated time to play with ideas outside of “get it done” mode.
- Everybody’s the same. For new ideas and solutions to emerge, collaboration across disciplines is crucial. Creative teams should include people with varied backgrounds, areas of expertise, and perspectives.
- Aversion to risk. From our earliest days in school, we’re taught to avoid failure and minimize risk-taking. But innovation requires risk. When people are punished for taking risks — whether through “softer” channels like social disapproval or the pain of missed promotions — they are far less likely to bring creativity to work.
- Cruising in the comfort zone. When you’re good at what you do and you know how to do it, there’s little reason to reach for the stars. After all, things are good enough, right?
- Few incentives to be creative. The specifics vary from one workplace to the next, but for most people disincentives to creativity are everywhere. People who try something creative in a business risk becoming known a troublemaker, especially if a new idea makes life uncomfortable for someone higher up in the organization. In schools, an innovative teacher might have to contend with upset parents and unsupportive colleagues. For many people, the disincentives are far more powerful than the drive to create.
- Inertia. It’s the most powerful force in the Universe, and for many teams, too. When processes, ideas, and cultural norms are entrenched over many years, the force needed to try something new becomes ever-greater.
- Lack of confidence. If you ask 5-year-olds whether they’re artists, they’ll almost always say yes. But ask adults the same question, and just about everyone says no. Myths about creativity — for example, that only a few special people are truly creative, or that creativity is exclusively about fine arts — can destroy our confidence in our creative spark.
- Expertise. On the other hand, having enormous confidence in our own expertise on a given subject can hamper creativity, too. If we’re sure we know everything, or want others to think we do, we stop being curious. Without the new input, innovative ideas can’t flourish and creativity withers.
The good news is that when people at every level of an organization — school, business, or nonprofit — partner to become more creative, innovation starts to flourish. That 5-year-old artist inside each of us is still there, just waiting for some encouragement and a safe place to thrive.
The O’Briant Group works with organization to kick-start creative teams using the principles of Design Thinking. Learn more at obriantgroup.com or follow us at @obriantgroup.