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With Christmas rushing headlong towards us – last years innovations are now in full swing at RedBalloon. As we get, bigger, older and more established the last thing we want to do is forget what made us the award winning, innovative business that we are. One thing I do know is that innovation can come from anywhere and everywhere – inside and outside and organization. So when my colleague Kristie shared what she learned at the recent Creative Innovation conference – I thought it time to reflect.

Leadership plays a massive role in creating an innovative environment – but according to Dr Amantha Imber of Inventium there are 13 main factors that positively influence the climate for creative innovation. The first five being the most important:

  1. Positive Interpersonal Exchange – sense of “we’re all in this together”
  2. Intellectual Stimulation – debate is encouraged!
  3. Challenge – jobs/ tasks are challenging, complex and interesting (though not overwhelming)
  4. Flexibility and Risk-Taking – organisation is willing to take risks and deal with uncertainty
  5. Top Management Support – creativity is supported and encouraged by top management
  6. Supportive, Positive Supervisor Relations
  7. Supportive, Positive Peer Group
  8. Mission Clarity
  9. Participation – participation from all team members is encouraged, clear, open and effective
  10. Quality Orientation – committed to quality/ originality of ideas
  11. Reward Orientation – creative performance is tied to rewards in the organisation
  12. Resources – time and money to encourage and implement ideas
  13. Autonomy – employees have autonomy and freedom in their roles

Innovation always comes back to people choosing to make their jobs (or the world) a better place – which means that looking at People Capability is a big part of innovation.

Here are four tools to boost your people’s creativity:

  1. Shifting not brainstorming: many people don’t work best coming up with ideas in groups. Shifting involves firstly getting people to come up with ideas on their own for 5 minutes, then coming together as a group. Avoids groupthink, but still benefits from the positive group dynamic. It is harder to look outside of the box when everyone is sitting inside it.
  2. Assumptions Crushing: assumptions are one of the biggest creativity killers in organisations. What assumptions do we have about our business model, products or people? What do we take for granted and wouldn’t dream of challenging? Flip our assumptions on their head – ideas will often arise.
  3. Recognise Innovators: idea of the month, innovator of the year.
  4. Happiness: Our emotional state has a big impact on our ability to think creatively. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University conducted a study which examined the impact of happy and sad moods on idea generation. On average, participants in the happy group came up with almost 50% more ideas than the sad group.

The happiness hypothesis was also explored by Teresa Amabile at Harvard University – found that people were more likely to come up with breakthrough ideas when they were feeling happy, even if this happiness was experienced the day before the idea was generated.  Dopamine helps control the flow of information to other parts of the brain.

I’m excited by what we will be working on next year and beyond.

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