Have you ever tried to implement a new change in your company and found you hit a barrier? Maybe the executive level was on board, you had a solid plan and budget in place, but found your employees simply didn’t adopt the new change. Having a workforce that is open to new ideas and feedback is important for keeping up organizational agility. Here are six ways you can open up your workplace to new ideas:
Stop being in control
Letting go can be difficult, but if you don’t try something new you may miss out on finding more efficient and innovative ways of doing things. Managers should learn to be open to employee feedback and be willing to test new strategies. The biggest concern for micromanagers is having to go back and fix things if they aren’t done right the first time. What they have to keep in mind is: there is never one way of doing things. Try the road less taken and you may be surprised where it might lead you.
One way to help your workforce let go and open their mind to new ideas is to get them out of their comfort zone. Organize regular workshops and inspirational talks to shake things up. At Impraise we recently hosted a workshop on how to boost creativity in teams. Our guest trainer, Annet Kloprogge, encouraged everyone from employees and managers to interns to share and brainstorm new ideas using design thinking and Hyper Island inspired exercises.
One of the biggest problems today is that we almost never listen to 100% of what other people are saying. When was the last time you had a conversation with a co-worker or joined a meeting and didn’t look at your phone at least once? Try holding a feedback session during which you have everyone check their phones at the door.
Ask everyone to come up with one idea that could help productivity/communication/innovation etc. in the workplace. Before sharing ideas reinforce deep listening by asking everyone to follow these steps: Listen to each word the speaker says. Once they’re done, imagine you implemented this idea into your work schedule. In your mind come up with 3 pros. Now 3 cons. Imagine what the outcome would be. Part of being open-minded is being able to objectively assess each idea without letting personal bias get in the way.
In an interview, Google’s head of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, explained that one of the top things they look for in a potential hire is humility, and in particular intellectual humility. According to the HR influencer, studies have shown that graduates from elite universities often reach a plateau. You may be well versed in the ins and outs of your field, but if you don’t have the ability to take in new ideas or admit when you’re wrong, you won’t make the cut.
Next time you consider a candidate for a position in your company, consider this: they may have the technical skills necessary, but do they have the ability to make mistakes and learn from them? Executives can also shape intellectual humility by example. Leaders who can admit they’re wrong and are willing to take on advice from subordinates are going to be much more admired and successful than leaders who allow stubbornness to get in the way of progress.
Eliminate fear of failure
A major obstacle to openness is fear of failure or backlash. If you want your people to take risks and voice their opinions, you have to create a safe environment for them to do this in. The most important thing is creating trust. One step is creating an environment in which people will not face consequences for trying something new and questioning established processes.
Give your employees some freedom to experiment with projects of their own, no matter how crazy the idea sounds. In a few blog posts we’ve highlighted this practice by major companies, such as Atlassian and Google. Google X, the company’s secret innovation lab, has become particularly famous for its testing of unconventional ideas such as self-driving cars and smart contact lenses. The original 24 hour ‘Shipit days’ created by Atlassian have become contests for employees to come up with the best and most innovative idea. While not all experiments are ultimately successful, allowing employees to be creative in a safe environment will make your workplace more open to change.
Transparency and inclusiveness
Eliminating fear of failure is important, but there must also be open channels of communication through which bottom up feedback can be given. Instead of simply implementing new changes, include employees in the decision-making process.
There are two common ways companies have been doing this: 1. Holding weekly all hands meetings during which employees can submit questions to be answered by senior level employees. 2. Adopting a continuous feedback tool that allows employees to give feedback directly to anyone in the company.
Much of the time reluctance to change comes from a fear of the unknown or a feeling that people will be encumbered by the new system. Providing support to those who are pushing back will help assuage concerns. For example, if you’re introducing a new tech tool to a multi-generational workforce, provide extra trainings and detailed literature for employees who may not be as tech savvy.
Once a change has been implemented, make it easier for employees to try new strategies and then look back and see how successful they were by providing data. Giving employees a way to track progress will allow them to assess the benefits of a new change for themselves.
Photo by Diz Play
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