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If people are avoiding risk, they’re avoiding creativity and innovation. To overcome the huge shortcomings of brainstorming, try to get people to generate ideas on their own for five or so minutes.

Don’t inadvertently stifle creativity in your business, here’s how to harness innovation.

Dr Amantha Imber is the founder of Inventium, Australia’s leading innovation consultancy, and is an expert when it comes to identifying ways organisations can create a culture in which innovation thrives. 

Let’s explore some of the more effective methods for encouraging creative thinking in your workplace, according to Imber.

Group brainstorming is suited to extroverts

“How many times do you hear someone utter the phrase ‘Let’s have a brainstorm’ in an average month at work?  A lot of us don’t generate our best ideas when working in a group – but rather, when we have time to think about it on our own for a bit,” says Imber.

Brainstorms suit highly extraverted people who are comfortable putting their thoughts on the table, but less extraverted people work less effectively in these situations.

“Groupthink, in which group members start to think and behave in similar ways, can significantly reduce the effectiveness of a brainstorm,” says Imber. This might lead to bias towards popular ideas, regardless of how good they might be in reality.  

To overcome the huge shortcomings of brainstorming, try to get people to generate ideas on their own for five or so minutes, says Imber. Then give everyone a turn to share their ideas and flesh out the ideas that have the most potential.

Recognition is more effective than reward

Consider how your performance at work has been rewarded – or how you have rewarded others in your business. Has cash or recognition featured more strongly?

“Many universities and researchers around the world have studied pay-for-performance reward systems. In one such study, researchers found that individuals who were rewarded in this manner tended to avoid risky behaviour,” says Imber

“People got so caught up in achieving their targets, they focused on repeating what they had done in the past and tried not to do anything that might mess up their rewards.”

If people are avoiding risk, they’re avoiding creativity and innovation.

Find the ‘right’ amount of challenge

“One of the strongest predictors of innovation in the workplace is whether employees feel adequately challenged by their jobs. Those who feel their jobs are challenging and that the objectives and goals they are set stretch their capabilities are more likely to behave creatively,” explains Imber.

Allow employees to work autonomously, rather than being micro-managed, but ensure employees don’t feel overworked.

Crush assumptions where necessary

Assumptions are one of the biggest innovation killers in businesses of all sizes.

“For example, if you run a consulting business and you want to grow it, one assumption you may be making is that to make money, you actually have to be working – given that’s how consulting services work. You provide something and your client pays you.

“But this old- fashioned business model means that to increase profit, you need to work harder or pay more people to work harder on your behalf. A very limiting assumption,” says Imber.

Ask yourself – what if the opposite was true? You will unlock significantly more creative solutions.

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