rapid prototyping

5 Tips to Increase Innovation in the Workplace

Many government, commercial, and non-profit organizations are seeking ways to bring more innovation and creativity into the workplace. Leaders see their organizations from experiencing the same day, problem, or meeting over and over.  Just like that Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day. This cycle can lead to frustration, declining morale, and ultimately burnout and it can be hard to break. Leaders should strive for innovative and creative solutions not only to keep things interesting but also to explore new approaches or methods for achieving their work/mission It can be tough to establish an environment of creativity and innovation. For those leaders experiencing Groundhog Day, here are 5 tips for innovation in the workplace:

1) Change Your Location As simple as it sounds, if you want to feel inspired sometimes the best solution is to get away from your desk or office. Go for a walk, work from home or a local coffee spot if possible. At Corner Alliance we invite clients and partners into our office space for white boarding sessions. Our clients get out of their normal offices and interact with a creative space where you can write on the walls, see sunlight streaming through the windows, and maybe chew a gumball.

2) Change the Way You Do Work If you can’t get out of the office try changing some of your everyday practices to spark innovation. If you normally sit at your desk to work, try a standing desk. At standing meetings, actually have everyone stand in order to increase blood flow and encourage participation.

3) Invite Different People to the Table Many times the barrier to innovation is that the same voices are in every meeting. Tunnel vision can set in if your brainstorming meeting for creative ideas is made up of only leadership. Try inviting different voices into the room whether employees from various departments, or an outside consultant. By inviting people from across the company to voice their opinion on what changes should happen you also have the added benefit of creating buy-in.

4) Take a Look at Your Culture Is your organization’s culture conducive to the innovation you are seeking? Often, the cause of a non-innovative environment is an unclear message on organizational priorities. Are your employees aware of the value you place on innovation? Take a strategic pause to decide where your organization’s values lie and then encourage innovation in those areas with a reward system of some sort.

Hint: a sure sign that your employees aren’t sure if innovation will be valued is if they ask the question, “Can we do that?”

5) Embrace Failure No one likes failing, but in the quest for change and innovation, not everything is going to work 100% of the time. Many employees will be afraid to voice their innovative ideas because they fear punishment for failure. To avoid this, embrace techniques like rapid prototyping that will reduce risk of failure for creative new ideas. Also make it clear that leadership will not fault the innovator if an idea does not pan out as desired.

Do you have any other ideas to drive innovation? We would love to hear them.

Graphic of 5 Tips to Increase Innovation in the workplace

Using Rapid Prototyping in Government – Improve Your Ideas

John Godfrey Saxe, an American poet, introduced the Indian parable “The Blind Men and the Elephant” to a Western audience. In this tale, six blind men touch the same elephant, but each perceives something different about the animal. “And so these men of Indostan disputed loud and long, each in his own opinion exceeding stiff and strong, though each was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong!”

“The Blind Men and the Elephant” demonstrates that the human ability to ideate is constrained by judgment; we are only able to see what our worldview teaches us to imagine. And that “idea” is only one perspective, one small part of reality.

How many times have you committed to an idea you thought would work, only to discover significant drawbacks too late in the game? There is a method to overcoming information limitations and validate our ideas. The answer is something called rapid prototyping.

Rapid prototyping is a method of testing new ideas that decreases development time and cost by prioritizing early stakeholder feedback. Popularized as an iterative approach to user design (think GoogleGlass and mobile applications), the process allows teams to quickly generate and test multiple ideas, targeting pitfalls before they become a problem.

This process is not about perfection. Most people struggle to give up on an idea they’ve invested significant resources into, but what if the idea just won’t work? Going back to the drawing board is not a bad thing. Rapid prototyping helps you identify the 10-15 percent that will work and discard the rest. Don’t fail, learn.

This powerful technique is not limited to the technical sector as many believe. Prototyping is useful not only for real-life testing of products, but also of services, processes, and even experiences: as long as there is a problem to solve. In tackling a problem through relentless iteration, a team can decide faster if an idea is viable and, if not, how to make it viable. The result? Saved time, money, and aggravation.

To begin you must identify the problem you wish to solve. Once you’ve identified your problem, rapid prototyping is the relentless iteration of the following three-step process:

  1. Ideate: Generate as many ideas as possible, however ridiculous, to solve your problem. Do not judge the ideas. Just be creative.
  2. Prototype: Convert the best ideas into physical prototypes, or representations of your solution: sketches, mock-ups, diagrams, or even role-play.
  3. Refine: Share the prototype with users and seek feedback. Evaluate the 10-15 percent that worked and restart the process to improve your idea. Continue this process relentlessly to mature the prototype.

Eventually, your idea will systematically tackle and overcome any and all challenges relevant to you. No surprises three months down the road because you’ve sought feedback from different perspectives. The blind men can see! This method succeeds in creating a robust output, but some find even more value in turning critics into allies and increasing buy-in beforehand.

Questions about rapid prototyping and how your organization can apply the technique? Email llane@corneralliance.com or comment below.