The most common complaint we hear is that there is not enough time to be innovative. So, how can you make time for innovation? How can you find time to learn about cool stuff, explore new ideas and create solutions? We’ll cover the three things that you can do today: design more productive meetings, use a proven innovation process, and narrow your focus. We’ll also share what happened at Google when employees spent 20% of their time on creating new products and how one company used these techniques to yield seven patents from one meeting.
#1 – Design More Productive Meetings
According to a recent HBR article, executives spend an average of 23 hours per week in meetings. When they surveyed managers:
- 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient
- 65% said meetings keep them from completing their own work
- 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking
- 62% said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together
So, people are spending more than half their week in unproductive meetings. There must be a better way.
If you use the right agenda, your meetings will be more productive. The best agendas include: a 1) purpose, 2) process, 3) meeting goal / product outcome, 4) time limit, and 5) defined roles. For more, read our article on How to Design Successful Meetings.
Here’s an example about a meeting to problem solve issues in production.
|Define the purpose upfront so everyone is clear on the challenge
|How might we get unit #3 to produce the product up to specification?
|Identify the process and tools that will help you address each issue more systematically and quickly
|Use brainstorming and perspectives to generate ideas, then highlighting to identify the best ideas.
|Goal / Product
|Declare the end result or goal for the meeting
|Generate 10 testable prototype ideas for improving the productivity of unit #3.
|Decide how long you’ll work on the issue
|Facilitator (manages the process and time)
Output Manager (documents what has been decided)
Owner (submitted the issue)
Resource Group (people who are participating to help solve the challenge)
So, for your next meeting, use the right agenda. You’ll find that you’ll generate better results in less time.
Finally, if you are solving a complex collection of challenges, consider working with a trained facilitator. Recently, we facilitated an offsite meeting for an international electronics company. We divided the team into small groups made up of engineers, salespeople and patent attorneys. For each group, we trained a person to help us facilitate the meeting. We chose these people because they had taken our creative thinking training course. At the end of this 3-day meeting, they had created seven patentable products. 3 days, 7 patents. Does that sound efficient to you? It was certainly faster than the typical output speed for our client.
#2 – Improve People’s Creativity Skills
With the right training, anyone can improve their creativity skills. As they improve their skills, they will need less time to create better solutions. There are four key skills:
- Clarify the right challenge (do your research and choose the right problem to solve)
- Generate lots of ideas then choose the best ones (important to separate these activities)
- Improve the best options (strengthen and prototype the best solutions)
- Create a plan for implementation and monitor progress
There are many structured creative processes that teach part or all of these skills – Lean Six Sigma, Design Thinking, TRIZ, and Creative Problem Solving. We find the most robust process is the Universal Creative Process, since it outlines how to use any of these creative methods and uses advanced tools to move quickly. Also, this process helps the team collaborate better, including designing new opportunities as well as anticipating and overcoming existing challenges.
Pro Tip: Make sure that in your training sessions, you and your colleagues work on current challenges that your organization is facing. That is, don’t work on hypothetical situations. If you choose real-work challenges, when you return to the office, you can immediately begin implementing the solutions.
#3 – Narrow Your Focus
If we want to find time to explore new ideas, we need to focus. But, with all of today’s distractions, this can be hard. Make three lists:
- What should I stop doing?
- What should I keep doing?
- What should I start doing?
If you are having trouble prioritizing, use our tool, Why? What’s Stopping You? For the things you are currently doing, ask yourself “why” and see if there is still a valid reason to keep doing them. For the things that you want to start, but haven’t, ask yourself “What’s stopping me?” and see if the hurdle is something you are ready to overcome.
Case Study – Google
A good example of this is Google. In 2004, Google Founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, decided that employees could use up to 20% of their time on side projects. They refocused the work to make sure that employees became personally responsible for new innovations. Not all of the projects were successful. And not everyone took advantage of the freedom within the new policy. But some did, and a few developed widely successful projects, such as AdSense, Gmail, and Google Maps.
Make the Time for Innovation
So, use our tips to make more time to be innovative. We all have a DNA-driven desire to create and add value. Unleash your creative self. If you and your colleagues make more time for innovation, you’ll be delighted with what appears.