WSJ reported recently that the 40-hour week is a thing of the past. Did you need the WSJ to tell you that? According to the report, 58% of U.S. managers reported working more than 40 hours a week. The only country to report a higher percentage of manager working more than 40-hours is our neighbor to the south, Mexico.
The article mentions the role of technology in this trend. It’s a double edge sword. While it allows us more flexibility and the ability to work from anywhere, it also prevents us from ever being able to completely disconnect. If we don’t get to those emails before we leave the office, we can do them after dinner or over the weekend. No need to wait until we’re in the office to review that presentation, we can download it on our phone.
A question this finding raises for me is, how are we spending our time? Have our jobs changed in such a way that more hours are needed or are we consumed by tasks that aren’t adding much value anyway?
For example, I think we’ve all spent endless hours emptying our inboxes of emails that we’ve been politely copied on so that we can ‘stay in the loop.’ Do we spend too much time composing texts or emails focused on interpersonal transactions that simply move the ball down the field a littler further or are we developing real work relationships that allow us to collaborate, innovate and create significant breakthroughs that really make a difference for our customers, our people or our organizations?
Have you ever been told that you or your team needs to be more innovative? That word — innovation — is scary to a lot of people. It’s like the word creativity. People think that it applies to other people who have some special gift or some different way of seeing the world.
I think many people view innovation as the next big thing, some lightning bolt idea that comes from nowhere and is completely, radically, something-the-world-has-never-seen, new. In reality, innovation is most often about a series of small changes that add up to something very different or about putting together things that already exist in a new way or a new form.
Try these 5 tips to bolster innovation:
1. Ask why. The first step in innovation can be asking the question “Why?” so that you can really step back and think about why something is done a certain way or designed a particular way.
2. Look at it through the eyes of someone who’s never seen it before. This can be difficult when you are so close to an approach, a process or a product that you can only view it as it is. Ask someone very unfamiliar with it to look at it and tell what she sees. Include different perspectives, different areas of expertise, and different backgrounds in a conversation.
3. Take people out of their usual environment. We get into patterns of thinking when we always engage in activities in the same place. The environment creates that box we’re always told to get out of. Have a conversation in a different place. Go outside. Meet over a cup of coffee. Go to a museum.
4. Ask those closest to it what they would change. The people who are closest to a process or product or way of doing things, can tell you about what isn’t working or is frustrating or could be done differently. Ask for their creative ideas about how to change things up.
5. Ask ‘Why not?” When we hear a new idea we often respond immediately with thoughts of the obstacles we will run into not the potential it holds. Stop. When those thoughts invade the conversation, push them aside and focus on asking “Why not?”
Fareed Zakaria of CNN has a terrific series on innovation where he interviews top innovation thinkers on how to spur creativity. We can all awaken the sleeping giant in each of our companies by spurring innovation in our own areas of influence.
To lead for creativity and innovation:
- Hire people with natural curiosity and a desire for continual learning. Innovation and creativity comes from a desire to do things differently and people who are curious, life-long learners ask questions like “why?” and “why not?”
- Hire people who execute ideas. Idea generators are the engine of innovation. Those who execute are the steering wheel. Without those who can take the ideas from just ideas to ideas that work, you’ll never get where the innovation has the potential to go.
- Engage people in interesting business issues. People get creative when there is a tough nut to crack. The next time your team has a difficult challenge facing them, rather than sitting in your office trying to find the solution, pull together a group of your best talent and ask them to solve the problem. If you’ve seen Apollo 13, think about the scene where the engineers need to find a solution to an oxygen deletion problem by making a square filter fit in a round hole. They’re given a box of materials that are on the lunar module, told their mission and told to make it happen.
- Make innovation part of the ongoing conversation. Be careful how you position innovation in the conversation. When you throw around the words ‘innovation’ and ‘creativity’ most people respond with something like ‘oh, I’m not very creative’ or ‘people like me don’t innovate. Those are the guys at Google.’ However, if you ask, ‘how can we make things run more smoothly’ or ‘how can we add more value to our customers’ or ‘what would really make a difference in how we work’, everyone will have an idea.
- Create space to develop the best ideas. Give each of your team members the challenge and the space to spend time thinking about their part of the business and where they could take it. Thinking often takes a back seat to doing in our culture but it is essential to innovation.
Hire the right mix. Engage them in meaty issues. Have a continual dialogue. Give the space to think and act. Awaken the sleeping giant within.
NextBridge partners with you to create and execute pragmatic, sustainable business solutions focused on building your organization and culture, developing talent and navigating change.
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