Anyone can complain. And for the most part, they do.
But anyone can innovate, too. Even the whiners.
Good managers strive to create the environment – and the opportunities – so that any employee in most any position can play the role of a problem-solving innovator. It’s far more doable than you might think.
Here are some thoughts on how to make that happen.
1) Watch For Stopped Traffic. It’s Very Telling
Slowdowns are a clear sign of problems. Are people waiting too long? Are some tasks just too difficult?
If you encourage employees to spot and flag inconveniences, it creates an environment to innovate.
2) Things Don’t Always Happen For A (Good) Reason
Most day-to-day routines can look the same on the surface. But when employees are encouraged to open their eyes and observe a “normal” process, those closest to those routines will see things they may not have seen before.
On a typical day, they’ll complain that something was left hanging, or is always breaking down. That’s called opportunity.
3) Back To The Future: Time For A Challenge
People can become so accustomed to doing things in a certain way that we no longer see it as inconvenient.
Sure, the current way you do things might already be efficient. But it’s often good to challenge that type of thinking, anyway.
What is the difference between the current situation and any possible future improvements we could make?
4) Different Strokes For Different Folks
When someone does spot a hiccup, sometimes getting a broader perspective really makes a difference. For the employee who accepts the challenge, give them the opportunity to go to different places and observe how different people do things.
This could be as simple as going to another department down the hall. By observing people from different backgrounds in different situations, employees can come up with better solutions.
5) Make A List
Try to create a central place to collect the problems people identify. This will give more people a chance to review what’s being discussed and to contribute.
Top priorities are those problems that are both painful AND solvable.
6) And Then ‘Just Do It’
Yes, that’s another trademarked slogan we’ve borrowed for this article. But it’s a good one, isn’t it?
Taking action is a habit. When we’re young, it’s said we are a product of our environment. But one of the great things about growing up is your environment can be made into a product of you.
A good first step to creating the habit of taking action is to focus on the results you want, not the means you need to achieve them.
In other words, start with, “What do I want?” and not “What do I have?”
And remember, you’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take — Wayne Gretzky.