How can you foster an innovative mindset among your staff?

06 Oct 2012 23:24 | Armelle Loghmanian

 How can you foster an innovative mindset among your staff?

By Servane Mouazan

Servane Mouazan, CEO Ogunte and Coach for High Impact Social Entrepreneurs

Successful social innovators   

Everyday I come across outstanding individuals with sheer passion to change their community and who contribute in skills, connections, strategic and technical knowledge, to making a positive social or environmental impact. Some of these individuals do this through enterprise, others through campaigning.

In over 10 years of running Ogunte, a Social Innovation Development Company focused on women led social ventures, I have observed that these social innovators possess a set of behaviours that help them deliver that change. These behaviours are absolutely transferable to mainstream organisations.

In our effort to build efficient and agile teams, able to respond to unexpected economic fluctuations, it’s worth laying robust foundations and reinforcing the capacity of individuals and organisations. Change takes time, trust - and a terrific amount of energy- to be adopted!
This is why looking at the behaviours successful social innovators showcase when they embrace change, is important. It helps provide adequate support to teams in mainstream businesses.

As the Centre for Social Innovation puts it: "A true social innovation is systems-changing – it permanently alters the perceptions, behaviours and structures that previously gave rise to these challenges".

From our work, we know that an individual must master a package of competence, connectedness, confidence and chemistry to make progress.

So for you to help your team gain a more innovative mindset, you might want to involve coaching support to help people understand their role and potential impact from a different perspective, starting with how they are going to judge the progress of their personal development.

Coaching looks at their values and how they influence the change they want to make in their life and in other people's lives. And that is already a first step towards measuring their potential impact.

Set of behaviours to deliver innovation

1. Understanding the drivers

Social innovators need to reconcile sometime contradicting roles and priorities. They are both sellers/traders and campaigners or activists. They need to keep their vision and mission alive, make a real impact on people and/or the planet, and they have to tackle project management issues, raise funds and keep supporters on board, all at the same time.

You can help your staff understand their drivers and think from their own values. For instance, if a team member has a strong sense of social justice, encourage the activist in them to overcome the issue your team faces in a particular context.

2. Harnessing the power of networks

Exploring networks in which the innovators are involved, whether they are actors, leaders, or just observers, gives light on their strategic mindset. Can you expand, refocus and shrink the number of your networks? Are we talking about quantity or quality? Do you help your team curate their networks to enhance them? Do you encourage your team to share and use their external networks at work?

Most successful social innovators see networking not only about giving and receiving but equally about passing on and working towards a common vision. So as a coach I will not only support the individual, but together we will both explore the social issue the innovator is embracing, in a specific networking environment. It's about seeing a social issue as a malleable virtual person that has a history, many perspectives, and a bunch of gremlins, but that is also open to change. Equally, you can encourage your staff to manage a project as if it was a living architecture with its own mind.

3. Collaboration and open source thinking

You'd like to think that social innovators are involved in finding solutions to pressing issues by working together but many obstacles to that are: competition, branding issues, unhealthy management practices, scarce funding, intellectual property, to name just a few. Unfortunately, a lot of people are still reluctant to collaborate through fear of losing their USP (unique selling proposition) or access to finance.

Even if social innovators have multiple drivers and responsibilities, they are always hungry for systems that make them think differently. To boost this, active brainstorming with peers and outsiders gives great solutions. It's about creating platforms where entrepreneurs connect, co-mentor each other and get access to new challengers, in order to grow learning and trust. Research into open source software communities, by Karim R Lakhani, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, has shown that "broadcasting" or introducing problems to outsiders produces effective solutions.

So as a team leader, try to break the silos around you and become more open source. A successful collaboration will be the reward of this mindset.

4. Growing stimulation and leadership

Social Innovators get excited when they are close to other great social leaders and innovators and stimulating ideas. So coaching focuses on their ability to excite others and connect with a group of champions that needs a leader and a stimulator. A coach can encourage the maverick – or outsider – in them, to find their own voice, and come up with an idea they will formulate with their own words.

5. Advocating a strength-based approach

I often find successful social innovators seem to find answers in what works, in previous and new solutions, rather than in problems! Focusing solely on problems, on the “yes, but” - doesn't lift your thinking. We know very well what’s going wrong… but do we pay enough attention to what excites us, what works?

Remind your team of the vision. Design your mission statement together, with words you all own, so that it resonates with everybody.
I see most success with social innovators I coach with a strength-based and a solution-focused approach. They get the satisfaction of being intellectually challenged, and the excitement of moving forward, in a positive way.

Being part of the solution also boosts their sense of belonging, and rewards their desire to be useful and wanted.
So support your team into getting a positive reputation based on positive evidence and good practice, and make them aware of all these processes so that they can repeat them.

Short Biography

Servane Mouazan is the founder of Oguntê, a social ventures intermediary focused on Women Social Innovators.
With a background in marketing, creative industries and executive coaching, Servane has closely helped over 2500 women social entrepreneurs in Europe and South America, with their leadership and communication skills, their mindset for enterprise, and their capacity to innovate.
A true advocate for Women and Social Business, she has set up the first Women's Social Leadership Awards (since 2007), contributing to highlight the achievements of women community activists as well as senior social leaders. She has also created an Activist Angels Council and Make a Wave, the first pre-incubator for Women Social Entrepreneurs.

twitter: @ogunte

Disclaimer -   
Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of OGUNTE, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software