The word innovation is thrown around in business like a ball at the beach. We want innovation and celebrate innovation, but creating an environment for innovation and inspiration is another issue entirely. The truth is that inspiration is established through leadership. Whether you’re a business of 1 or 1000, leadership establishes culture-period. If you want an inspired culture that’s energized and excited, you can’t simply hire great people. You have to actually develop the kind of environment where people feel valued, turned on, and collaborative – essentially, where people feel that they’re part of something bigger than themselves or their job. Every innovative organization devoted to advancement consciously constructs a dynamic environment for this purpose.
As it happens in my own business, I’m the boss of me. In the beginning I was a slave driver who was relentlessly unforgiving about mistakes or failures of any kind, but I’ve learned over time that this sort of mania doesn’t produce excellence. Instead it produces exhaustion, anxiety, and frustration. I’ve changed my ways and now I’m an excellent boss to myself! I worry less about failure and more about creative approaches to problems and developing excellent relationships with my clients. My approach to my own business as well as those I consult for is to be solution driven and inspired. I focus on opportunities instead of obstacles and treat problems like interesting puzzles. It’s more productive, dynamic and interesting for everyone involved.
Innovation is another challenge because it requires a different reaction to failure. Businesses are appropriately designed to make a profit. This means that we are driven by success – that’s the goal. While the goal is success, if we punish failure we can’t also have innovation. Innovation is necessarily born of risk, which sometimes leads to failure. The tension between innovation, which demands risk and success, which avoids it, frequently produces an unimaginative and cautious culture.
If we want self-motivated, dynamic, creative problem solvers, we have to set the tone for the targeted behavior to be demonstrated. Inspiration and innovation motivates those you lead to deliver their best work. From a sales perspective I use lost opportunities as a teaching tool. Look for teachable moments with those you lead. Post mortems of lost deals are not about blame, but instead about responsibility and ownership and creative solutions. If we don’t look at our mistakes as opportunities for analysis we lose critical intelligence that will inform future success.
When it comes to sales and business development if you want to inspire and innovate, then reward creative approaches, set a tone for responsibility and analysis rather than blame, and invite input and dialogue. When people feel that they are a part of a collaborative process to deliver something excellent, they’re going to be energized and motivated to continually reach.