When leaders foster a culture of innovation, they enable their teams to be creative, flexible problem-solvers who thrive in the face of change. But what is a culture of innovation? And how does a leader start down the path of fostering one? Building a culture of innovation begins with embracing what I call The 3 Cs: critical thinking, curiosity, and customer-centric design.
Many people think critical thinking stifles creativity and innovation. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Critical thinking allows us to rise above our own perspective and see a wider set of possibilities. It prevents us from unintended errors like stereotyping, jumping to conclusions, only seeing what we want to see, and falling in love with our own idea. Critical thinkers develop creative solutions because they see problems in new and unique ways.
Curiosity prompts us to ask why and what if. It inspires us to imagine a world where we are not constrained by our assumptions. Curiosity encourages us to ask questions and test ideas even when we think we know the answer. Curious teams reframe problems in ways that others can’t.
Customer-centric design places the customer at the center of the innovation process and then relentlessly pursues the best solution or experience. Customer-centric teams solves problems over selling products and services. They develop high-value, creative solutions that give them a competitive advantage in areas beyond product development.
Assessing Your Team’s Proficiency
The 3 C’s of Innovation is the foundation upon which innovative teams generate unique and creative solutions. So, how proficient is your team in the 3Cs of Innovation? In your next few team meetings, ask yourself the following questions:
How many new ideas did the team suggest during this meeting?
When someone suggested a new idea, how long did it take for others to begin listing reasons why that idea wouldn’t work?
Were the new ideas based on what our company wants to achieve or the problems our customers are experiencing?
How often did the team make decisions based on what they "know” about our customers?
If you find that your team is limited to a single perspective, relying on assumptions, or placing the company at the center of their decision-making, then it’s time to engage them with The 3 C’s of Innovation.