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Here’s What’s Really Holding Your Teams Back from Innovating

Thinking in absolutes is holding your team back from being creative, which is the key ingredient of innovation.

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To thrive in today’s competitive job market, creativity and innovation are must-have skills. When it comes to workforce strategy, the skills we need today are different from five years ago. According to a Forum report, negotiation and flexibility are high on the list, whereas in 2020 they will drop from the top 10 as AI and data analytics take over.

“Creativity will become one of the top three skills workers will need,” the report states. “With the avalanche of new products, new technologies and new ways of working, workers are going to have to become more creative in order to benefit from these changes.”

We know creativity can lead to innovation, but are we wired for creativity as human beings? One of the main ways we hold ourselves back from being creative is by thinking in absolutes such as “all or nothing,” “right or wrong,” and “yes or no.” Thinking in absolutes invites people to give up when they’re just getting started and holds you back from being able to think creatively.

Here are the 3 main ways thinking in absolutes is holding you back: 

You tend to view every bump in the road as a failure.

By defining success in rigid terms, you essentially set yourself up to fail. In the long run, this not only makes you less productive but more likely to experience chronic stress and burnout. When things don’t turn out the way you planned, you need to be able to keep an open mind and embrace new possibilities. 

For example, let’s say your goal is to land three new clients this month, but you only get two. You see this as a failure and beat yourself up instead of letting it go and moving forward. A more creative way to look at this situation would be to ask your two new clients if they’re interested in additional services to make up for the third. 

Like all aspects of life, our professional lives are complex. We all have good and bad days and days that fall somewhere in the middle. In business, setbacks are inevitable, which is why it’s important we use them to learn and grow.

It hurts your relationships.

People who aren’t wired for creativity tend to think in absolutes, idealizing or devaluing others. They approach conflict with a polarized mentality, which can cause them to draw false conclusions and make impulsive decisions. This can lead to firing talented employees, losing a sale, and missing out on opportunities for collaboration and innovation. 

To build strong professional connections, you need to be open-minded and encourage new perspectives. Culture change is not a go-it-alone activity. You must win hearts and minds throughout the organization. Your employees not only need to believe in your company and its mission but also feel their opinions are valued and respected. This will give them the courage to speak up when it counts. Innovation cannot take place without courage and vulnerability.

It creates team dysfunction.

If you think in terms of “my job” and “his job” you are limiting yourself to expand your talents and skill set. The best work environments are collaborative where roles sometimes overlap, and people step up when a coworker needs help. If you stick to rigid job descriptions, it can prevent your company from reaching its full potential.

Create a Culture of Innovation by Embracing Creativity

How can an organization stay agile and innovative over time and as it grows? What can you do to create an environment where innovation happens repeatedly? Many leaders spend years searching for the answer to these questions. 

The key to innovation is creating a safe environment where your team feels heard and understood so that they can open their minds to thinking more creatively rather than worrying about being right or wrong. A fear of being wrong lies at the core of creative blocks. It’s being afraid to step into the unknown or being afraid of sounding dumb. That’s why it’s important for leaders to be open, honest and compassionate.  When you act from a place of authenticity as a leader, you inspire others to model that same behavior and to be more vulnerable.

By tapping into your creativity, you’ll see the potential that arises from changing direction. You will shift away from “we’ve always done it that way” and start thinking outside the box.

To uncover more ways your teams might be holding themselves back, click here.

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