Imagine if the All Blacks fielded just half a team of test-experienced players against a full-strength English side in a Rugby World Cup final. They wouldn’t stand a chance. 

This is exactly what happens when you compete against highly innovative teams. 

Unlike rugby, where the game is over in 80 minutes – usually with a clear winner – your team cannot see the results immediately. Everything looks good. There seems no reason to change anything and business continues as usual. 

But over time, the lack of creative input from your people slowly but surely strangles your ability to innovate. 

The result is reduced revenue, relevance and performance. And even worse is the sheer waste of your team’s incredible talent and brainpower. 

Creating an innovative team 

Let me ask you: How many in your team actively suggest ideas? I routinely put this question to managers in a range of industries – from banking and pharmaceuticals to chemical corporations. Their typical response is anywhere from 10% to 50%.

You may have come to regard this as an acceptable figure, but is it really? 

The good news is that creating a highly innovative team is a lot easier than you might think. It is something every manager should achieve with their staff. 

When asked the question, "How many in your team actively suggest ideas?", the typical response should be: everyone.

No such thing as a bad idea

A great way to create an opportunity to hear everyone’s ideas on a regular basis is through sharing ideas at a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly meeting.

The secret to the success of this approach is to not make any comments when each idea is presented, regardless of how "crazy" it might seem. Simply write it down, thank the relevant team member for presenting it, then move on to the next person.

The reason is simple: it’s incredibly easy to make knee-jerk reactions to new or unconventional ideas. 

First impressions can often be wrong. And any perceived negative comments can be poison when it comes to motivating your team. 

Witnessing a team member getting put down over an idea they’ve presented is the biggest turn-off to sharing anything yourself.

The aim is to create a safe environment where your team feel free to suggest a range of thoughts, from valuable improvements to off-the-wall breakthrough ideas.

And the trick is to do it on a regular basis. 

An insurance manager, who meets his team weekly to hear their ideas, mentioned to me that he is continually getting competing demands on his time to reschedule the meeting. But, he told me, “I religiously hold the meeting every week to hear their ideas – because it’s important."