Coaching for Innovation by Mira Lannutti

22 Jan 2016 12:56 | Anonymous

John Steinbeck once said in an interview, “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple, learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”  The evening with Cristina Bianchi and Maureen Steele (Innovation Event, Part 2 on Nov 26, 2015)was very much about all of that. Well, all except for the rabbits.

We’ve been wired to think of innovation as a sudden breakthrough, something which happens miraculously in the head of a single genius, or a disruptive idea brought to life by a bunch of smart engineers working in a lab. Cristina and Maureen invite us to take another perspective – to look at innovation as an incremental change – something new, useful, with added value, which each and every one of us can help create, be it a product, a process, a system in our organization, or the way we communicate… Cristina and Maureen help us understand how creativity draws on divergence and a collision of different ideas. You don’t need to be born an innovator, but you can become one. To get ideas, people need to switch to exploratory mode. So try these:

·         Observe and be curious.

·         Ask questions. Listen attentively.

·         Look for opportunities. Take risks, experiment.

·         Dare to be creative and do things differently.

·         Be willing to fail but learn from it.

You’ve been tasked with coaching a creative team. You know that people working together have more and better ideas but how to get them to the harmonious spirit where 1 + 1 = 3? How to keep ideas coming? Cristina and Maureen offer us their Model for running a creative team session -a clear set of guidelines on how to behave with each other. Think of it as a bridge across the wild river of change. It takes you in a structured way from where you are to where you want to be. This bridge consists of 8 stepping stones

1.      Agree operating guidelines and rules - decide how you’re going to interact.

2.      Define the issue – make sure you all have the same understanding.

3.      Decide what you want to achieve, including – and very important! – how the stakeholders will be affected so take into account their needs and interests.

4.      Generate ideas by adopting divergent thinking. Typical questions to boost creativity are “What if…?”, “What else..?” Welcome ideas from everyone.

5.      Filter generated ideas – consider which idea stands the most realistic chances of achieving, what would be the outcome and impact of each idea.

6.      Assess feasibility of the best ideas – for example what are the resources needed, are they at hand or they need to be sourced externally, or what the financial implications might be.

7.      Action planning. Remember: Innovation = idea generation + action. So plan the implementation and how to measure success.

8.      Close the process and feed-back. Acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of the team.

Sounds simple. In practice however the process of innovation in a team can be a lot more complicated.  How you as a coach can handle people in a situation of conflict, preserve the team’s innovative spirit and keep ideas coming in? Maureen and Cristina shared a handful of trouble-shooting techniques. Just two of the essentials:

·         Revert to the team’s ground rules. Look for win-win solutions.

·         Remember it is how you and the team deal with the problem that makes the difference and lead towards a positive outcome to everyone.

Now you have a rough idea how to awake the creativity, how to structure the process of innovation and how to handle in case of conflict. Enjoy.

Article contributed by Mira Lannutti, OWIT Lake Geneva Marcom team volunteer


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