I’ve been thinking about innovation and motivation a lot lately. I delivered a presentation at UHY Advisors in St. Louis to their senior executive networking group on “Sparking Creativity and Fostering Innovation.” You can look at the presentation at SlideShare. The topic is always a lot of fun to present, and it have many layers of complexity.
One aspect of the innovation piece that I don’t get to talk a lot about in speeches in the need to motivate people, and that’s too bad. Because as I think, write and speak on the topic more frequently, I am more convinced than ever that motivation is one of the central elements that MUST be present in organizations for innovation and creativity to take off.
Innovative organizations share some common traits, and among them is great leadership, or to use Sarah Miller Caldicott and Michael Gelb’s term – charismatic leadership. See Innovate Like Edison. I agree. Leadership is crucial to fostering an innovative environment. And I think the single most important thing leaders can do is simply to motivate. Motivation comes from some pretty basic concepts – autonomy, mastery and purpose, according to Daniel Pink. These critical ingredients to motivation will never be present when leaders exert too much control, or keep us hemmed in by boring or rote tasks and fail to provide the vision and direction needed for us to feel that connection to our work that leads to a feeling of purpose. So – absent motivated people, innovation simply will not – cannot – occur.
Here are a few simple things leaders ought to be doing to motivate people and pull that creativity out of them and guide that creativity to result in innovation:
- Get out of the way. Hire good people. Hire the right people for fit and culture, and then trust their talent to deliver results.
- Give people challenges that push them to be better. Do NOT expect people to be thrilled by boring, repetitive tasks. Of course those things have to be done, too. But make sure the core of people’s work is devoted to things they can learn and get batter at doing.
- Offer a clear vision of the future and the reasons that future is desirable. This is not the same as saying, “We will make X millions in Y years.” That’s not a vision. That’s not a strategy. That’s a metric. Instead offer employees a REASON to work together to make the organization and its customers and clients a little bit more successful in the future. It’s the “why” that really is that “vision” thing, and that vision thing is what provides purpose.
Hopefully, you and your organization can find a way to motivate to innovate as a pathway to a brighter and more fulfilling future.