Leaders need to create the space for their teams to make meaningful improvements in the business.

Two factors need to be addressed to create that space:

  1. Showing high openness to ideas
  2. Providing effective structure

As the chart below indicates, showing openness without structure risks a “free spirit” environment with ideas all over the place and decreased chance of execution. In organizations like this, people eventually stop giving ideas because they go nowhere. On the flip side, having too much structure and no real openness to ideas leads to squelching of ideas. (In one company I know, the “continuous improvement committee” had the reputation for where good ideas go to die. If the boss suggested going through them, many people simply gave up.)

To demonstrate openness:

  • Proactively ask for opinions
  • Genuinely listen to perspectives
  • Actually use the input

To provide structure:

  • Create working groups with defined purpose and longevity
  • Organize Innovation sprints to innovate in specific areas and create teams to execute on the best ideas
  • Let people know what constitutes a good idea in terms of impact, strategy, and ROI. (All improvements are welcome, but not all improvements are strategic.)

With high openness and strong structure you will be clearing a path for effective innovation with your team. Without it your teams will not be reaching their full innovation potential –and neither will you.