No matter how talented a team may be, sooner or later they may fall into a rut. Ideas seem stale. Solutions are the same old, same old. It’s not as if everyone has given up, but rather that approaches seem less inspired.
The challenge for leaders: finding a way to jump-start the team and then keep it from falling back into that rut. But how do you take such action quickly and effectively without jeopardizing customer satisfaction or a competitive edge?
Bernhard Schroeder, director at the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center at San Diego State University, often challenges his students to come up with better solutions to problems. He’s also worked with companies like Amazon and Nike and mentored various startup founders.
Schroeder says to keep teams continually thinking up fresh ideas, company leaders must send a strong and consistent message to team members that their continuous growth is a priority. As part of that effort, team members must learn to “neutralize any weakness and make it a strength,” Schroeder says.
For example, Schroeder recalls a young man who had “superstar potential” but couldn’t communicate well.
“I told him, ‘I love you on the project management side, but your communications suck.’ I told him I was sending him to a six-week Dale Carnegie course and you know why? Because I wanted him to know that he was a potential superstar and he wasn’t done learning,” he says.
Nancy Andreasen, a neuroscientist and neuropsychiatrist, finds in her research that the most creative people are polymaths – people who have broad interests in many fields. She’s also determined that “high IQs did not predict high levels of creative achievement later in life.” However, those with creative ideas do work much harder than the average people “and that’s usually because they love their work,” she says.
In her research, Andreasen explains that she was always curious about what made some people better at coming up with creative ideas or solutions and says she found that such people “are better at recognizing relationships, making associations and connections and seeing things in an original way – seeing things that others cannot see.”
Start With a “Growth Mindset”
Other research from the Harvard Business Review finds that creativity is 20% inherited inclination and 80% learned behavior.
Schroeder believes that any team can turn out better ideas, as long as the right techniques are put in place to spur them to greatness. The key: having team members with a “growth mindset.”
“We must believe that we can learn and grow our intelligence beyond what we were born with,” he says. “We need to assemble diverse teams of people who think different but all agree on the problem at hand and strive to solve it together.”
In a new book, “Simply Brilliant: Powerful Techniques to Unlock Your Creativity and Spark New ideas,” Schroeder suggests one of the biggest obstacles to teams churning out better ideas consistently is that they often don’t know what problem they’re trying to solve. Why not? Because teams simply fail to ask the right question (read more here)