Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Escaping Groundhog Day: 5 Tips for Innovation

Punxsutawney Phil, held by Ben Hughes in 2010, is famous for predicting more of the same. Punxsutawney Phil, held by Ben Hughes in 2010, is famous for predicting more of the same. Gene J. Puskar/AP file photo

This month we observe Groundhog Day, and like the Bill Murray movie of the same name, many government and nonprofit leaders suffer from experiencing the same day, problem or meeting over and over. This cycle can lead to frustration, declining morale and ultimately burnout, and it can be hard to break. Leaders should strive for innovative and creative solutions not only to keep things interesting but also to explore new approaches or methods for achieving their work/mission

It can be tough to establish an environment of creativity and innovation. For those leaders experiencing Groundhog Day, here are five tips for innovation:

1. Change Your Location
As simple as it sounds, if you want to feel inspired sometimes the best solution is to get away from your desk or office. Go for a walk, work from home or a local coffee spot if possible. At Corner Alliance we invite clients and partners into our office space for white boarding sessions. Our clients get out of their normal offices and interact with a creative space where you can write on the walls, see sunlight streaming through the windows, and maybe chew a gumball.

2. Change the Way You Do Work
If you can’t get out of the office try changing some of your everyday practices to spark innovation. If you normally sit at your desk to work, try a standing desk. At standing meetings, actually have everyone stand in order to increase blood flow and encourage participation.

3. Invite Different People to the Table
Many times the barrier to innovation is that the same voices are in every meeting. Tunnel vision can set in if your brainstorming meeting for creative ideas is made up of only leadership. Try inviting different voices into the room whether employees from various departments, or an outside consultant. By inviting people from across the company to voice their opinion on what changes should happen you also have the added benefit of creating buy-in.

4. Take a Look at Your Culture
Is your organization’s culture conducive to the innovation you are seeking? Often, the cause of a non-innovative environment is an unclear message on organizational priorities. Are your employees aware of the value you place on innovation? Take a strategic pause to decide where your organization’s values lie and then encourage innovation in those areas with a reward system of some sort.

Hint: a sure sign that your employees aren’t sure whether innovation will be valued is if they ask the question, “Can we do that?”

5. Embrace Failure
No one likes failing, but in the quest for change and innovation, not everything is going to work 100 percent of the time. Many employees will be afraid to voice their innovative ideas because they fear punishment for failure. To avoid this, embrace techniques like rapid prototyping that will reduce risk of failure for creative new ideas. Also make it clear that leadership will not fault the innovator if an idea does not pan out as desired.

Do you have any other ideas to drive innovation? We would love to hear them.

Chelsea Matzen is an operations associate at Corner Alliance.  

Close [ x ] More from GovExec