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7 easy ways to boost innovation at work


Stuck in a rut and need some inspiration at the office? Here are seven easy ways to get the juices flowing, straight from the real-life habits of the innovation geeks at LGI.

1. Use Post-Its… lots of Post-Its. I hate to admit it, but this paper-using tactic actually works. One of the first things you will notice in our meeting rooms (apart from all the colorful writings on the wall), is that there are Post-Its galore. We have neon Post-Its, miniature Post-Its, magnetic Post-Its, and pink Post-Its in about three or four different shades. They’re everywhere, to the point that sometimes I think we must manufacture them, as it seems we have an endless supply stocked in our cabinets. Whether it’s for an internal meeting or a project with our clients, we almost always break out the colourful sticky note pads. Why? It helps to visualise one’s thoughts, and it gets everyone focusing on the same topics. Brainstorming sessions often produce a flurry of ideas instantaneously, and using Post-Its can help organise everyone’s ideas in a cohesive manner. Arranging them on a wall or storm board allows for themes to quickly emerge and become more apparent.

TIP: Only one idea per note. Although this means that more Post-Its will get used, it makes organising and re-grouping thoughts much easier in the latter stages of a project.

2. Build team spirit. LGIers love to talk about their annual team-building trip. I heard about it my first day on the job, and I never stopped hearing about it until the next year’s trip finally happened. This past year we spent a few days in Lisbon, complete with surfing lessons in freezeing-cold water one morning. I personally wasn’t convinced that such a kumbaya moment with the colleagues would produce the bonding needed for innovative projects at the office. But ever was I wrong. After the trip the teams were much closer, much more engaged with one another, and needed less warm-up time to get meetings rolling. If you don’t have the money for a trip to Lisbon, no worries – anything fun, where there is no judging involved and everyone is on the same page, should do the trick.

Surfing and building team spirit for innovation

Team LGI takes on the Tagus River.

3. Do good. This totally works, and not just because you need to feel a bit better after using all those Post-Its mentioned in point #1. Doing something good in life, whether it is picking up the trash in your local park or helping the homeless, can be a very empowering act. You realize that yes, you do have the power to make the world a little bit better. We at LGI strive to make at least some aspect of our projects sustainable. Wondering how this has anything to do with being innovative? Two things: first, feelings of empowerment in one area of our lives can often spill over into other areas. So when we feel empowered from helping others, we increase our chances of feeling motivated to take on that difficult assignment or team project at work. Second, research suggests that showing compassion (such as helping others) can lead to increased feelings of happiness. And if you’ve ever read HBR Professor Teresa Amabile’s work, then you know that happiness can help stimulate creativity.

TIP: If you’re not sure what you can do, start out with recycling. Not only is it good for the environment, but going through the act of compartmentalizing things can be a good organisational exercise for your other projects.

4. Exercise. Numerous studies show the benefits of exercise on the brain’s ability to focus and problem solve, so this should be a no-brainer. Yet even at an innovation office, it can be easy to somehow get into the rhythym of work, letting exercise go. Let’s face it: after a long day, sometimes the last thing you want to do is work out, no matter how good it is for your creativity. So arange an ultimate frisbee game one day during lunch. Or see if you can bring a yoga instructor in for office yoga one evening. Apart from the mental clarity it produces, it also reduces stress levels. Namaste!

Office exercise to boost innovation

Sports Day at LGI’s Paris office.

5. Play. Just as playing is good for children’s development, it can help adults be innovative, too. We have one colleague (no names!) who walks around the office pretending to be a T-Rex dinsosaur at times. While LGI does not suggest you follow suit (although all the power to you), it does believe in the power of playing. So much so, that we conduct Lego Serious Play workshops for our clients. The workshops have had great sucess, helping to create breakthroughs on all types of projects. For the skeptics out there who don’t think playing can help you become innovative, we suggest you read up on works by Brian Sutton-Smith and Daniel H. Pink. We also invite you to come and try it.

TIP: Remember that playing, at its core, is all about imagination. Eva Boo, Chief Play-novator at LGI, notes that there is no “one size fits all” methodology that you can apply to every problem. Each play session should therefore be tailored to fit the project or challenge you’re hoping to tackle. More than anything, it should be fun, not frustrating.

Lego Serious Play to boost innovation

Output from a Lego Serious Play session at LGI.

6. Sleep. Again, a primal necessity for a well-functioning brain. In fact, it’s a wonder companies don’t require their employees to get a minimum amount of sleep! While LGI has yet to turn itself into a hotel, it does encourage power naps during the work day. This may not be accepted at all offices, and it can be a bit awkward if there’s no space for privacy. But if you seem to be blocked on a project and have been burning the candle at both ends lately, perhaps it is time to prioritize some good ole shut-eye in your schedule.

TIP: When it comes to sleeping at work, power naps rule. Anything more than 20-30 minutes could leave you feeling groggy… and potentially cause your colleagues to start wondering why you’re not answering their Skype messages…

Power nap sleep to boost innovation

No shame in power napping.

7. Shake it up. Not only is this LGI’s motto, but it influences our everyday work. Innovation often occurs at the crosspoint of two diverse ideas (known as the Medici Effect, a phrase coined by Frans Johansson’s book of the same title). Hence it is vital to ensure there are no silos forming within your organisation. With work stress and deadlines though, it is not easy to stay on top of what everyone else is doing – so sometimes you have to force it. Much like the Google labs, we at LGI have no permanent seats… where we sit each day is as contextual as what we ate for breakfast. Our deskmates are always changing, meaning we strike up conversations with people not on our team, and we are constantly learning about different projects. I will note that there is some criticism out there to this style, also referred to as « hot desking ». What matters though is not where you sit at work – it is about breaking out of your daily routine. Eating lunch once a week with a member of another team could produce similar results. Or, you could really shake it up and all come play Legos with us next Tuesday…

7 easy ways to boost innovation at work

How do you #shakeitup? Let us know on Twitter @LGI_Consulting!

Suzi-blog photoSuzi Tart Maurice
Innovation Strategist
Meet me on LinkedIn

 

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The views and opinions expressed in this blogpost are solely those of the original author(s) and/or contributor(s). These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of LGI or the totality of its staff.

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