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Your innovation challenge can start out like a grand love affair, all parties filled with possibility and promise, and excited to work together towards a brighter future. However, as any veteran love-junkie knows, that initial spark becomes harder to maintain as time passes, and excitement tends to fizzle after the honeymoon period ends.
What can this look like in the context of your innovation or continuous improvement program? New ideas slow to a trickle and your community of innovators stops contributing to the conversation as frequently, or with the same energy. If left unaddressed for too long, this can kill your innovation efforts by sending the message that your company culture isn’t fertile ground for novel ideas and approaches.
So how do you make your continuous improvement initiative a place of continuous engagement?
Here are three tips to get you started.
The secret to any enduring relationship, including the one between innovation managers and innovators, is communication. Communication provides space to identify common goals and work together towards achieving them. This shared experience creates a bond between parties, which leads to deeper, more well thought out conversations (read: ideas). Good moderators and innovation leaders encourage this meaningful dialogue long after idea submission. Then, the more your team communicates and collaborates, the better their ideas get, filling your pipeline with QUALITY ideas that you can carry forward.
Great communication, however, is not just about speaking your mind, it’s about listening to the other person in a way that makes them feel heard. Giving participants a voice is a key component of any innovation challenge, and if you continue to provide updates, ask questions, and show an interest in your team’s ideas, your team will continue to show up with a willingness to contribute.
Relationships are hard! You can easily get bogged down in the process of making it work and lose sight of the reasons you chose this path in the first place. So it’s important to take a step back and celebrate your successes – they’re proof of your endurance and commitment, and they’ll motivate you on journey that lies ahead. Similarly, maintaining a constant community of ideas is really challenging, and it’s easy to lose steam in the process. Celebrating wins reminds a team why participating in innovation is worth the investment of time. Also, a key part of celebrating success is showing recognition to those who helped you achieve it. Celebrating successful ideas, at an all-hands meeting or in a company newsletter for instance, calls attention to the people that showed up in a big way. This gives participants a goal to shoot for as they strive to be featured in your company’s next success story.
The quickest way to get out of a relationship rut is to shake things up by trying something new – like switching up your date night with a restaurant you’ve never been to before, or trading a meal for a movie or dancing. One of the tech companies I used to work for had regular “shake-ups” where everyone moved to different spot in the office with different neighbors than they had previously. Disrupting status quo keeps things interesting, lends fresh perspective and the opportunity to connect with new people or experiences. Similarly, in your continuous improvement challenge, “continuous” need not be a prescription for monotony! Do you have new criteria for evaluating ideas? Can you bring in a new moderator or team of innovators to share their opinions? Shaking things up will reinvigorate the experience and that, along with communication and celebration, will keep participants (or partners) curious and engaged.