Driving innovation and creativity from within (feat. Kaihan Krippendorff)

Mar 1, 2022

Are entrepreneurs the main leaders of innovation? 


Conventionally, the most groundbreaking ideas are thought to come from entrepreneurs and executives. But innovative ideas come from passionate and driven employees as well, if you know how to unleash the power of their creativity.


How can you drive innovation from within your company? 


Kaihan Krippendorff is the bestselling author of five books, most recently the Edison Award-nominated Driving Innovation from Within: A Guide for Internal Entrepreneurs.


In this episode, Kaihan shares his process for encouraging innovative ideas and how leaders can create a psychologically safe environment to foster creativity.


Kaihan began his career with McKinsey and Company before founding the growth strategy and innovation consulting firm Outthinker. His strategies and innovations have generated over 2.5 billion in revenue for many of the world’s most recognizable companies, including BNY Mellon, Citibank, L’Oreal, Microsoft and Viacom.



How leaders can create a safe environment for creativity and innovation


Innovation requires an element of failure— a cycle of trial and error. As a leader, your job is to make it safe to fail. Without psychological safety, employees won’t feel comfortable brainstorming or sharing their ideas out loud with the rest of the group, let alone testing them to see if they work.


Here’s how to create the conditions that allow your employees to thrive, contribute, feel engaged, and collaborate with one another.



1. Assess and adjust your reactions.


When you hear an idea, what is your micro-reaction? Do you giggle? Smirk? Praise?


Keep in mind, if you praise one employee, you have to praise all. If you only praise some, others won’t feel as comfortable sharing their ideas out loud. It’s better to stay neutral and avoid encouragement during the ideation phase.



2. Separate brainstorming from analysis.


During the ideation phase, Kaihan recommends staying curious without commenting on ideas. Brainstorming isn’t the time for approving or disregarding. Keep the ideation phase and the analytical phase separate so employees can share without fear of judgment.



3. Encourage the “crazy idea.” 


Most leaders shrug off crazy ideas. They put the big ideas on the backburner and, three years later, another competitor beats them to it.


Kaihan encourages leaders to have space for impossible ideas. The most far-fetched ideas are often the ones that turn into winning moves for your company.


“Have them on your agenda. Every month or every quarter, work on those crazy ideas, keep those alive, make it okay for people to hold onto crazy,” he said. 



A better alternative to “out of the box” thinking 


Most employees feel they need to maintain the status quo and avoid risk at their jobs, making it difficult to practice out of the box thinking.


Kaihan offers a distinct alternative: think within more than one box. He calls these boxes the eight P’s—eight different categories to help employees come up with creative ideas. The 8 P’s include: 


  1. Positioning
  2. Product
  3. Price
  4. Place
  5. Promotion
  6. Processing
  7. Physical experience
  8. People


Rather than expecting your team members to dream up one hundred ideas from thin air, leaders can select one or a few of the categories as the focus. “Forcing them into a box, those restraints, actually encourages creativity,” Kaihan said.


“If you want to increase the volume of ideas,” he said, “What you can do is take the team and break them up.”


Give each group one of the 8 P’s and have employees come up with 50 ideas. Then, have them narrow them down to 10 to share with the whole group. You’ll be surprised by how many ideas your team can discover together.



Kaihan also shares…


  • Why you shouldn’t rush your strategy design process
  • Seven common barriers to innovation
  • The balance between decision-making and leaving room for ideas


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