Picture this: You’re sitting around a table with your team. Someone asks one question, then another. Another person makes a suggestion about a product, then a new marketing strategy, and somehow, 30 minutes later you’re all talking about something entirely unrelated.
If you’ve ever worked on a team, you know that there is a delicate balance between open communication and complete chaos. “But good teams are so close and collaborative,” people protest, “you can’t possibly be advocating for less sharing.” I’m not. Well, not entirely. With sharing, teams must focus on quality over sheer quantity. With thoughtful planning, teams can be both collaborative and productive simultaneously.
So how is this done? How does one harness a team’s creative and innovative potential while maintaining efficiency and daily progress? Focus on these three actions:
You must emphasize a balance between short-term goals and long-term vision. An overarching mission is critical to all companies today. However, you must not allow your team to be blinded into inaction by the pressure (or promise) of the end goal and mission.
Set attainable goals at smaller intervals: think week-long projects and monthly metrics. These internal “check-ins” are informed by the overarching mission. However, they present team members with the tangible—and actionable—challenges of the time.
Autonomy and room for creativity are assets for any innovative environment—as long as they are paired with accountability. This starts with the leadership. Everyone, top down and bottom up, must be held accountable.
This accountability (paired with clear goals!) allows managers to give team members more freedom in their pursuits, while ensuring that no task will fall through the cracks.
“Plan” probably conjures up a mental image very different from “creativity” or “innovation,” but I assure you that thoughtful planning is essential on the path to team innovation. Once again, the answer here is not more planning, but better planning.
Cut down on unnecessary meetings, or meetings that are simply relaying information. Steve Jobs said it best: meetings should only involve team members with a direct reason to be present.
If you apply these three strategies correctly, you can encourage creativity while improving productivity. So, what do you do with all this newly discovered time?
One idea is to plan brainstorm sessions. At our company, we called them growth hacks, but they really can relate to whatever challenges your company is facing at the given time. Distribute questions and metrics the day before, so that employees can think about and analyze them independently prior to coming together as a group. This way, you avoid the all-too-common pitfalls of groupthink, which dangerously stifles independent thinking and innovation.
These three elements may seem mundane or ineffectual at first glance, but they reveal a lot about a company’s culture. If fostered, these actions cultivate an environment for team innovation; one with room to explore, to experiment, and to learn, but one that is also committed to independence, diligence, and progress.
Caroline is the growth manager at Agora, an engagement as a service platform improving the way organizations interact.