Some people are naturally good at taking time to stop and think: Could this be done differently? Could it be done better? and Will it make a positive difference to my organisation? And those people are good at asking such key questions at regular intervals, always thinking, always questioning – and never settling into a Comfort Zone.
For the rest of us, it is easy to become stuck in our ways. Existing ways of doing things may not be the most efficient, but when they have evolved over time and work reasonably well… if it ain’t broke? People often don’t even think to question what changes could be made to improve processes and performance at work. But with markets, technology and organisational infrastructure changing all the time, there will always be areas to improve on and better working practices to adopt. Of course, good ideas which will improve an organisation’s performance will always be welcomed. Or will they...?
Often those who are new to an organisation have suggestions or ideas on how things might be done better. Perhaps they have experience of how a process has worked well at a previous employer, or it may just be a question of fresh eyes. Yet if a new recruit, or indeed anyone, is bold enough to speak up and challenge the status quo, we are all familiar with the mantra - it’s the way it’s done here. These barriers to change can be difficult to overcome. The choice, then, for anyone who puts their head above the parapet is: (a) to stick their neck out and try to fight the barrier or (b) to back down and keep the peace. Many will take the perhaps politically easier route and abandon potentially great ideas. This suppression of ideas is happening in organisations everywhere.
Yes, not all ideas are going to be great ideas, and the editing of ideas is key; but a culture which is adaptable, open and honest about new ideas, a culture which promotes innovative thinking and embraces change will help both the organisation and its employees reach their full potential.
But how to go about engendering a culture where innovative thinking is encouraged rather than suppressed? The starting point is to ask questions and to encourage employees to think innovatively. Easier said and even harder to put into practice.
One of our newest training activities, Innovation & Change, does just this. Through experiential learning, delegates have the opportunity to make some changes to an existing, real business. Participants are encouraged to:
As with all Northgate activities, the emphasis is on the participants’ self-learning. They experience the learning points during the activity and then during the debrief the key points can be drawn out to encourage delegates to put into practice what they have learnt when they get back to work.
By training employees to ask questions, to practise innovative thinking and embrace change, to increase their confidence in looking for how they can take ownership and responsibility for improvements at work, your organisation will be well on its way to zapping the Comfort Zone!