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From Creativity to Conformity: Why Teams Are Losing Their Ability to Innovate and How to Fix It.

We see innovation withering in many organisations, here's some possible reasons why and some potential fixes.

Innovation is a crucial aspect for any organization wanting to remain relevant and competitive.

As such, companies invest time and resources creating cultures of innovation, encouraging employees to generate new ideas and work together to bring them to life. However, recent trends indicate that teams are losing the ability to innovate together, leading to a decline in creativity and problem-solving abilities.

A lack of connection, authenticity and spontaneity in teams is what we see on the surface, and underlying it are many factors. We see it right in front of our eyes with some of our experiential learning games that require real-time innovation and the declining scores across the decades.

Here are some reasons why and possible fixes:

1 - Increased Remote Work

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the trend of remote work, with many companies adopting a work-from-home policy to keep their employees safe. While remote work offers several benefits, including increased productivity and flexibility, it also has some downsides. For instance, it's harder to maintain a sense of team cohesion and build trust when team members are working in different locations. In addition, remote work can lead to communication breakdowns, misunderstandings, and delays, all of which can hinder innovation.

Staging regular face to face team engagement and structured team building sessions can help to bridge the conscious and sub-conscious gaps created by decreased physical proximity within teams.

2 - Lack of Diversity

Diversity is an essential ingredient for innovation, as it brings together people with different perspectives, experiences, and ideas. However, many teams lack diversity, either because of unconscious bias or a lack of effort to seek out diverse candidates. When teams are homogeneous, they tend to think alike, which limits their ability to come up with new ideas and solutions. In addition, homogenous teams can create a culture of groupthink, where dissenting opinions are discouraged or dismissed, further hindering innovation. A lack of openness in teams, clone cultures that don't rock the boat and shutting down behavioural styles the prevailing culture may not welcome seem to abound.

Belbin Team Role profiles are a behavioural indicator of the diversity of operating styles within a team and can help in an immediate way to understand and harness diversity within teams. They also point out behavioural biases that may be impacting team performance and the value of genuine diversity and balance.

3 - Fear of Failure

Innovation requires taking some risks (psychological and physical) and trying new things, which can lead to failure. However, many teams are somewhat risk-averse and reluctant to take chances, fearing the consequences of failure and humiliation within the team. This fear of failure can be a major barrier to innovation, as it stifles creativity and encourages a conservative approach. Moreover, teams that are afraid to fail tend to stick to what they know, rather than exploring new opportunities or experimenting with novel ideas.

We design and deliver many great business games and simulations that enable leaders and teams to ‘war game’ their approaches to innovation and to inoculate themselves for the process of working through and forging ahead from failures. Belbin reports can offer evidence based insights into team strengths and weaknesses in this regard.

4 - Lack of Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, and it's crucial for innovation. When teams lack empathy, they may overlook the needs and preferences of their customers, leading to uninspired solutions. In addition, a lack of empathy can create tension and conflict within the team, as team members may feel disregarded or undervalued. To foster innovation, teams need to prioritize empathy and strive to understand the perspectives of all stakeholders.

We use the Belbin Model and its profiles and reports to accelerate team understanding, development and the creation of psychological safety. Interpersonal empathy is enhanced though understanding the behavioural styles of self and others.

5 - Burnout

Finally, burnout can be a significant obstacle to innovation. When team members are overworked and stressed, they may lack the energy and motivation to be creative and innovative. Burnout can also lead to disengagement, as team members become less invested in their work and less willing to collaborate with others. To combat burnout, teams need to prioritize work-life balance and create a culture of support and encouragement.

Allowing a team to ‘play together’ as a component of a well-structured ‘team wellness’ initiative is a useful aid to minimising individual and collective burnout.

In conclusion, teams are losing the ability to innovate together for several reasons, including increased remote work, lack of diversity, fear of failure, lack of empathy, and burnout.

To foster innovation, companies need to address these challenges head-on, creating a culture of collaboration, risk-taking, and empathy. By doing so, they can unlock the full potential of their teams and stay ahead in today's competitive marketplace.

To find out more about how we can help contact us:

T – 1300 731 381 E –


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