The dictionary defines innovation as “something new or different introduced.” If your culture doesn’t encourage innovation but you have a great idea to improve your laboratory, what do you do?
Employees learn to resist change because they are seldom empowered to initiate change themselves. Change is imposed from management as a “do it or else” or “this is good for you” choice. Change is more work: same old, same old. And management isn’t interested in your ideas.
There is nothing special about the ideas of management. They may have a better sense of the strategic plan, but being less connected to work on the bench almost guarantees any new idea to improve work will miss the mark. Everyone in any organization can innovate.
Psychologist John Shafer blogs in Psychology Today about using psychology to craft an effective message. “Communication is more than conveying ideas just as innovation is more than the bottom line,” he writes. Presenting a new idea with a “I have a better idea” declaration also says, “You’re wrong,” something that few of us like to hear. This puts the other person on the defensive, forcing them to defend the status quo even if the new idea is better.
As Shafer points out, we all have egos. The world revolves around us and our ideas, and any intrusion is seen as a threat. “I” and “you” set up the communication as a conflict that will generate winners and losers. Management wins, you lose.
He suggests eliminating our ego when presenting a new idea. Instead of saying “I have a better idea” start with “I’d like your advice on an idea that will improve our lab.” This approach avoids the cognitive dissonance of you being right and your manager being wrong, presenting your idea as an option to improve the team. It doesn’t hurt to stroke the boss’s ego, either. After all, he or she may have more experience or tried many new ideas in the past. The downside, as Shafer points out, is that you may have to share credit.
Can pushing innovation be that simple?
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