Project Management Professional (PMP)® Articles - Fostering Innovation: Six Ways to Encourage Your Team to Produce New Ideas

Fostering Innovation: Six Ways to Encourage Your Team to Produce New Ideas

At some point, you and your team members may start to feel at a loss for new ideas. When you've spent years in the same industry, and even at the same company, it can be challenging to continue to feel innovative and creative. Much of this is due to situations like a dip in morale, burnout, and a lack of change in work routines and tasks. However, there has likely never been a more crucial time where idea generation was important.

According to studies and insights from firms like Deloitte and McKinsey, the emergence of trends like increased online shopping, a rise of diversity in consumer populations, and an ever-changing technological environment is causing consumers to be in a constant state of rapidly changing preferences.

This development means that project managers and their teams have to be agile enough to consider and implement new ideas to stay relevant. So, what can you do to foster an environment of innovation? Here are some tactics you and your teams can use to keep idea generation going.

Create Ownership and Autonomy

People are more likely to improve things they care about and have a stake in. Think about the last time you created something or were in charge of an idea from start to finish. You likely felt a high level of involvement or investment in the evolution of the idea. You want to keep this scenario in mind when you are trying to create investment among your team. You want your team members to feel some sense of ownership in the project.

This can be done by letting them own and manage processes, delegating tasks to them, and letting them know how important they are to what you need to accomplish. All of these tactics can help them feel ownership in what you are doing. Research by the University of Birmingham found that autonomy significantly contributed to workplace happiness and well-being, which can both foster an environment where employees can feel comfortable offering new ideas. This step will make them more likely to improve upon processes, which can lead to new and valuable ideas.

Share What You are Reading and Listening To

This step may not seem like a solid plan, but this can be a game-changer for your team. Think about the last time you had a great idea. Did anything like a TED Talk, podcast, or an exciting new book contribute to it? Today, we are surrounded by more and more resources for learning. Getting out of your comfort zone to learn something new is easier now than ever before. Today, employers realize this.

Many job interviewers may directly ask questions about "what podcasts are you listening to?" or "what's the most interesting book you have read this year?" It's vital that you are always reading to learn something new. It would help if you cultivated this mindset among your team. Share what you are reading and listening to, and inspire your team to do the same. This action can encourage them to read and lean into the resources around them.

Embrace Mistakes

Every idea isn't going to work, and that's okay. You want to make sure your team feels comfortable enough to share ideas and know that the ship isn't going to sink if they don't work. For employees from places like Google, Apple, and even AT&T to develop their ideas, they had to be given the freedom to fail. Often, employees may shy away from pursuing that idea or taking the time to create that presentation for a new strategy if they think their job hinges on the idea's success.

So, build an environment where your team members have the security to try out new things. Again, it never hurts to create a contingency plan in case things don't work out, but embrace a "mistake-friendly" outlook that allows you to be open to new ideas and strategies.

Create Times for Your Team to Strategize and Plan

It's well-known that Google builds-in time , for their teams to brainstorm and come up with great ideas. These meetings are included in the work-time of their employees. If your team members are pulling eight to 10 hour days, they will not have the time to create their own moments for brainstorming. As a result, it's essential that you set aside some time for your team members to do this. Building in time for idea generation shows that you value this activity and invest in your team’s ability to come up with great strategies and ideas.

Ask for Ideas

In addition to allowing teams to have the time to brainstorm, you should also make it very clear that you desire this from your team. Don't hesitate to ask them for their ideas. You may want to structure this in the form of an internal pitch event or pull aside team members that you think have a skillset to create a particular proposal. Your team members may have some great ideas or thoughts, but they may not know where they fit.

So, build some structure around this process. Look at the areas within your company that can use some idea generation and then reach out to team members and directly ask them for ideas and solutions. You would be surprised to know that your team members may already have some innovative approaches to issues that have long been causing your company's problems.

Allow Your Teams to Learn

Training and development are critical to encouraging new ideas and involvement from your team. When your team members are learning new things, it automatically puts them in the headspace to begin asking questions, offering new insights, and pursuing new projects. Training and development don't have to be expensive or challenging.

It can be as simple as paying for them to take a few online workshops and attend a virtual conference or arranging for your team members to be mentored by others in the company. Give them opportunities to learn and develop. This action will enable them to be in an even better position to contribute ideas and offer solutions to the problems you and your company may be facing.

Human Capital and Ideas are Some of the Best Investments in your Company

Your team member’s ideas and insights are some of the best resources you can have within your project management team. Each team member is going to have a unique perspective that will allow them to contribute valuable ideas. Therefore, use the steps above to make idea generation a priority. Once you give your team the environment and go-ahead to think outside of the box, the more it will benefit your teams, projects, and clients.


8 Rules Molding Apple Innovation Culture,

Anyone Can Innovate – 10 Years of Great Ideas,

Guide: Foster an innovative workplace,

How Google's 20 Percent Rule Can Make You More Productive and Energetic,

Research says this is the secret to being happy at work,

The consumer is changing, but perhaps not how you think,

The great consumer shift: Ten charts that show how US shopping behavior is changing,