Linda Ray, CEO of NeuroCapability, looks at the challenges to supporting innovation in the workplace.
In our last blog, we noted the emphasis from our political leaders to be more innovative. I’m sure most of you would agree, this is critical in meeting the many challenges that we face in the 21st century. However, there are a number of key areas we must first address if we are to support an environment where innovation will flourish in the workplace.
Our workplaces aren’t innovation-friendly
How many of you reading this, work in open plan offices?
Innovative thinking often comes after we have an ‘aha’ or moment of insight. In order for this to occur our brains need to be quiet as we try and join the dots up for a solution. The wiring that starts to fall into place when we are on the verge of an insight, or shortly after, is fragile and if we are interrupted at this moment we can lose that elusive solution that was on the verge of consciousness or on the tip of our tongue.
In our modern workplaces, we have very little downtime. The reflective and quiet space we need to support insight and innovation is becoming rarer and it is often not valued by ourselves or our senior leadership.
So, on the one hand, we are being urged to be more innovative whilst operating in environments which are not innovation-friendly.
In your organisation, do you create the space and time to think creatively, learn from mistakes and interact with others to fuel innovation?
Distraction is an innovation killer
The reality of our current world of work is that we are operating in the midst of a distraction epidemic. The research shows we are distracted roughly every 5 mins by an internal or external distraction!
The move to open plan offices may have seemed like a good idea for getting people collaborating and interacting, however, the flip side is we are constantly distracted. This is because we are programmed for novelty and our brain pays attention to a myriad of signals in the environment that may generate either a threat or a reward.
When we are in flow or on the verge of an insight and someone wanders into our office or your email alert pings, you lose those weak connections in your brain that have formed around that insight or train of thought. The bad news is, that it can take up to 25 minutes to get back into that thinking space if in fact you ever do.
Distractions kill insight and innovation, not to mention productivity. How many minutes of productivity are you losing in your day?
Priming for innovation
Many organisations focus too heavily on rational structured “think tank” opportunities to solve a business challenge or lengthy strategy meetings.
We rarely come into these sessions ‘warmed up’ or ‘primed’. Yet we know the brain can begin a process of insight and innovation well before we come together as a group, and much of this thinking occurs outside of our conscious awareness.
Prior to a session, where you are discussing a business challenge or trying to do something more innovatively, send through some teaser questions or initial ideas. Innovation is an organic process and can’t be forced. Some of the best ideas don’t happen in the boardroom, they often happen when you are not thinking about a problem or a challenge.
Do you want to learn more about building an innovation eco-system and mindset … join us at our masterclass in Melbourne