Key to Innovation in the Workplace

Today’s topic is innovation. Innovation can mean breakthroughs, disruptions, or it can be as simple as basic everyday process innovations. Whatever the type of innovation, one thing is for sure…. the ability of a business to continue moving forward advance its capabilities is a key component of success for that business.

Is your organization an innovation-friendly workplace?  What does it even mean to have an innovation friendly workplace?

Well, the key to having an organization that is ready to innovate is to create an environment of psychological safety, a place where people feel safe to take risks and to be vulnerable in front of each other.

I know this might unfortunately run contrary to what many of us have been taught as we’ve gone through our careers. Too many of us have been exposed to bosses and leaders and organizations who lead by fear. Many have been exposed to entire cultures, based on a belief that fear and greed are the best ways to motivate.

This could not be further from the truth. Think about it. When people feel afraid are they going to give it their all? Will they be open to sharing their ideas or will they be playing it safe? Will they be avoiding risk for fear of losing their job, or being called out or being embarrassed and humiliated?

Psychological Safety

The thing is that in a fear based environment, people play a defensive game. They focus on survival. They don’t focus on winning. The good news is that leaders can create an environment of psychological safety. It starts with trust. People need to trust that their leaders and organizations have their best interests at heart. And this has to happen through visible actions, not through vision statements, core values, missions, or even through best intentions. It has to be through actions and behaviors.

The other really important thing here is that leaders need to consider how they handle failure. Too often, failure becomes a time for recriminations. It’s a time for hunting down someone to blame. It’s a time for covering your ass. Psychological safety and in turn innovation is created when leaders look at failure through the lens of learning instead. How could the failure have been avoided? And what are we going to change going forward so that we prevent failing in that same way again?

The bottom line is that creating this environment of psychological safety will enable an innovative culture and will help you and your organization ensure that you are agile enough to be competitive in an increasingly changing marketplace.