We’re A Problem-Solving Teamily

Nov 21, 2017

BY LISA BRINK – DIRECTOR, CUSTOMER STRATEGY AND INSIGHTS

All families have rules or mottos they live by. It’s what makes every family unique. My family is no different as we have our fair share of things my husband and I have tried to instill in our son. Here are a few.

Be daring at dinner. The rule here is that you have to at least try everything on your plate. You don’t have to like it, but you have to be able to articulate what you don’t like. Saying, “I don’t like it” without even giving it a taste doesn’t fly in the Brink household.

Two things are achieved by this motto and the rule that applies: 1) my kiddo experiences new types of foods, but maintains some control over what he ultimately consumes (unless it is a standard vegetable), and 2) he has to experience his food and be open to that experience, then very clearly—as much as a ten-year old can—express what he doesn’t like about the food he’s trying.

Another one:

We are a problem-solving family. That means we don’t get wound up every time something doesn’t go our way, if something breaks, or if we’re missing an important element in finishing an amazing school project. The lesson here is to innovate on the fly. Life throws us curve balls every day, and the more resilient and creative we are in how we handle those surprises, the more nimble our minds become. The “there’s only one way to do it” mentality won’t work in the real world, so why encourage it at home?

Embracing this in life—personally and professionally—can be quite liberating and FUN. It’s also a great skill to have when working in the space of innovation. There’s quite a bit of literature out there on innovation—it’s about being at the tip of the spear, being disruptive, or being bleeding-edge. But at the end of the day, it’s simply about looking at new and different ways to solve a problem. It’s about breaking from the standard way of thinking or doing things, and freeing yourself to approach a problem from an entirely different angle.

This only works in an open environment—where people feel free to express themselves and where no one is beholden to a “this is the way it’s always been done” mentality. I’m proud to say that we have such a culture at Elicit. We’re energized and inspired by the idea of making something better, or completely re-engineering a process, capability, framework, or way of thinking. WE are better because WE all participate in that process and check our egos at the door. We all subscribe to the notion that there’s more power in WE than I.

Creating this type of environment or culture inspires fresh thinking and creativity—it’s part of creating a culture that makes a best place to work. It’s a culture that is actively focused on what can be achieved together versus what is achieved by an individual. While this doesn’t happen overnight, below are a few tips that can help you get a culture of openness started.

1. ELIMINATE FEAR

Innovation can be scary, whether a person is sharing a new idea or receiving it. Innovation means change and change can be uncomfortable. Try to make it inspiring and see the possibilities and development opportunities in innovation.

2. MAKE INNOVATION EVERYONE’S JOB

Invite everyone to the party. Even if your role isn’t specifically in an innovation function, you should own it, too. There’s always (yes, I’m using an absolute) an opportunity to make what we do better and more effective. Giving someone the latitude to think about it that way can be a welcomed offer.

3. VALUE FRESH THINKING OVER EFFICIENCY

To get to a big idea or a new way of doing something, there are times when you’ll need to let go of efficiency. You might have to over-invest in time or sacrifice a return on the investment in the short-term to get to an improved process, experience, or big idea. Let that happen, but make sure you identify those criteria that tell you when the innovation test has run its course (i.e. know when to stop wasting time).

4. DON’T LET OTHERS SAY, “I’M NOT WIRED TO BE AN INNOVATOR”

It’s true that some people are better equipped to be innovators—their brains just naturally work that way—but I’m a firm believer that all of us can be innovators in some way or another. Practice makes perfect, and continuing to flex the innovator muscle makes it easier each time you access it. Remember, innovation doesn’t only have to be a big idea; it’s also required in the execution of a big idea.

5. MAKE SURE YOUR INNOVATIONS ARE BASED ON ADDRESSING A CUSTOMER NEED

Innovation for innovation’s sake isn’t going to get you far. When you can identify a problem or a pain point with a particular experience or process, that’s what will give you a crisp objective, and your innovation work should be guided by that objective. This also works if your focus is on addressing a customer need.

While these five tips might not work at the dinner table with your kiddos, they can be a great start to encourage and stimulate innovation on an individual level, as well as on your own teams. Innovation is critical in today’s rapidly changing environment and being open to it gives your team or company a leading edge. Giving your brain a good problem-solving workout can lead to transformative ideas and happier teams. And speaking of happy, I’m sure thankful that we’re a problem-solving teamily at Elicit.