“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” -Steve Jobs
Anyone can be a leader within an organization. Whether or not your role has the “leader” title assigned to it, you can be someone on the forefront innovating.
Organizations that encourage everyone, from individual contributors, managers, all the way up to the CEO, to take on a leadership mindset create cultures that don’t settle.
Few companies are really in this place. Many choose to abide by an old rank and file hierarchy that squashes creativity and inevitably disengaging employees.
So what can you do if you work inside a culture where new ideas are not welcomed? Do you have to accept it for what it is and keep your creativity to yourself?
The beauty of culture is that it is made up of the people who inhabit it. Meaning, everyone impacts how things operate, not just those at the top.
Here are three tips to propose new ideas in a less than open environment:
Tip #1: Lead by Example
This isn’t a blog that encourages you to throw caution to the wind and break the rules of your company. However, there are probably unwritten cultural norms that keep people from fully coming forward and innovating. These issues can range from not bringing up a perspective in a meeting because you don’t want to rock the boat to continuing a process that is outdated only because it is the way things have always been done.
Take this opportunity to start small and be the change you want to see. If you own a responsibility and you have an idea of a better way of doing it – do it. Try it out and create some metrics for yourself to see if it really does improve results. Keep track of those metrics and after a month show it to your supervisor, pointing out how your new idea has worked.
Tip #2: Use Your Voice
A leadership mindset is not for the faint-hearted. It takes courage to put yourself out there and be the one who speaks to an issue. The reward is that you directly impact how things happen and become a more active participant within your company.
If you’re in a meeting, use your voice. If someone has a different opinion than you about a topic, don’t sit there and internally stew about it. Voice your concerns and throw your own idea in the ring. If you’re not invited into the decision making process and you have a strong opinion, even if it goes against everything your culture stands for, set up a time to speak with leaders and express your concern.
Make it clear that you understand it’s ultimately their decision, and you hoped to just share your perspective. This can be very scary and not easy to do. However, it shows others within your organization that you have great ideas and that you care.
Tip #3: Keep Going
Let’s say you do tips one and two and have success, and you’re feeling pretty good about your job. So what’s next? Keep Going.
Let’s say you follow through with tips one and two, and it didn’t work out as well as you had hoped. You are probably slightly discouraged. What’s next? Keep Going.
The reality is being a leader isn’t a title - it’s a mentality. Innovating and thinking outside the box is a trait of productive individuals, and it takes practice.
Realize that your job satisfaction rests mostly in your own power, and that you can impact the day-to-day outcomes of your job. Even within a culture that doesn’t foster creativity, there is room for you to be creative and to lead those around you to do the same.
How do you innovate within your organization?