Do you constrain ingenuity?

As bosses, too often we lament that our employees lack common sense or are unable to think. The reality? We rely upon our own thoughts and ideas to address issues or concerns, invalidating any ideas others may want to contribute. We disregard what could have been valuable input from employees and customers. So what happens? We cause them to leave and ultimately our competition gets the benefit of their ideas! While money may be perceived as the holy grail of business, there are many successful companies that started on only a shoe-string, with plenty of ingenuity and determination. Train your employees to be fiscally responsible yet simultaneously think outside the box.

The million dollar questions are: What are you doing to constrain their ingenuity? What can you do to unleash their resourcefulness? How can you use others’ input to stimulate innovation?

Fiscal Responsibility. Remember, the sky is not the limit to fulfill upon a client’s need or resolve an internal systems issue. Train employees to create and follow a budget based upon a plan and become fiscally responsible. Do not reduce their approved budget unilaterally. Review milestones with them when they are working on a project to ensure they are on-time and within budget. Remember, keep the goal sacrosanct. Take them out of their comfort zone (aka perceived limitations due to money) and help them realize that with some guidance, they can indeed achieve the intended results!

Stimulate brain activity. Human brains react to stimuli, so while a blank sheet can terrify some, others will feel inspired. Providing a clearly defined problem (since it provides parameters) along with a sense of urgency can help most people come up with ideas. Don’t stop there! Have them put together a do-able goal and plan for its implementation. Set Due Dates; procrastination can be the worst enemy of innovation and forward movement. Also, reward right behavior to see it recreated time after time. Celebrate successes, no matter how small!

Teach resourcefulness. Some employees are naturally cost-conscious and resourceful, but have them be responsible so quality is not unduly modified. Take time to test employees, as a group or individually, to create alternatives to issues and not rely upon the misperception there is only one way to resolve a challenge or act upon an opportunity. Have them conduct their own benefit/cost analysis. Stimulating employees to learn from you and others will build trust, establish sustainable systems that can be built upon, and create new opportunities beyond the team’s immediate thinking.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2011

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