Innovation Spaces... Learn to Move Through Them!

Many companies are saddled with a climate where new ideas are received with apathy or skepticism. Recognizing the problem is easy; fixing it is much harder. Drawing from nearly two decades of experience, we’ve identified three climate-setting “spaces” crucial for supporting new ideas – which we call the Mind, Physical, and Virtual. Here are some keys to success:

Unlocking the mind innovation space. Innovators' mindsets share some characteristics: positivity, courage, and developmental thinking. When employees begin approaching problems with this mental frame, you’ll build a mind space that fosters useful ideas for the business strategy and strengthens employee engagement.

Making it happen is challenging, especially at first. Many employees have ideas and beliefs about their organization which run counter to an innovator’s mindset. There are clues to help you learn which people need the most help. The language and the ways to behave and interact provide insights: “But” and “No” language, or the knee-jerk dismissal of other people's views are clear signs of problems in the mind space for innovation.

What's needed? You must shift the paradigm to a language of “Yes, and”, with the intent of finding and creating value in each conversation. Innovation leaders must be the catalysts of this change, helping create a new culture within the organization, and substituting a competitive environment for a cooperative one.

Expanding the physical innovation space. Some aspects of the physical innovation space are obvious to most companies. Many leaders decide early to redesign internal working areas involved in the innovation process. This typically means changing impersonal conference rooms for more intimate, engaging, and creativity-stimulating environments. This helps drive meetings in a more dynamic way, avoiding “death by power-point” and other creativity-stifling corporate norms.

However, they tend to undervalue other equally important spaces. Great conversation, though, happens in many other office settings, which are usually forgotten because leaders don't consider them spaces for getting work done. Yet…think about how many good ideas can be born in hallways, cafeterias or coffee stations, all of them scenarios to regain for innovation.

Physical innovation space also extends far beyond the company's walls. Encouragement to “Go outside of your territory” allows employees to change their ingrained perspectives and enbrace new possibilities and modes of thought. Finding ways to engage directly with the customer’s environment, and even other places and spaces in the larger ecosystem, help uncover invaluable opportunities for networking and capturing ideas.

Leveraging the virtual innovation space. Our lives are increasingly governed by all things “online” and “digital”. This virtual space for innovation is quite participative and democratic. It also has an especially long reach, and scales more freely than the other spaces. Collaboration platforms of nearly all types offer terrific opportunities for would-be innovators to emerge from their hiding spots with confidence – including introverts who remain quiet in most meetings, and employees working in departments that are particularly cloistered from other groups or activities. Online environments help to reveal hidden opportunities by linking people and ideas in unexpected ways.

Sometimes companies forget about the Virtual space, or (more often) don't use it properly. The virtual space must be designed to do something more than capturing ideas: it must filter the most useful insights, and track them throughout the enhancement and implementation process. Otherwise, leaders quickly become overwhelmed by an overload of information that can be actively debilitating for efforts to grow an innovation culture.

Improving only one of these spaces, or all of them separately, is not enough for making innovation pervasive throughout an organization. Success requires moving through all of these innovation spaces to find new sources of value, reinforce engagement, strengthen each individual space, take advantage of all the available talent in your organization, and facilitate participation in the innovation process.

It's easier said than done. Normally, organizations find difficulties developing even one of the spaces well. Yet it’s possible…and imperative for innovation to flourish. Imaginatik has helped many companies to work on the three spaces. So if you want to create the best environment for the success of your innovation efforts, let's talk. We'll be happy to help you.

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