Innovation produces employees who think fresh thoughts. The more innovative your team is, the quicker it can solve problems, as it's constantly anticipating potential roadblocks.
Equally as important, an innovative mindset engages your employees in a way that makes them feel connected to their work. They not only feel more satisfied within their roles, but they also become more service-oriented toward customers.
However, in the hustle and bustle of a startup, innovation isn’t easy. Companies find themselves either stuck in a creative rut where they’re unable to push past initial visions or plagued by “ shiny object syndrome.”
Thankfully, practice makes perfect -- just take a look at Google. The company enacted a “ 20 percent rule” that encouraged employees to spend 20 percent of their time on personal projects. Some of Google’s best products -- Gmail, AdSense and Google Talk -- came from this initiative.
A policy like Google’s is just one inventive way to boost innovation. My company has found success in gamifying the process. Innovation games level the playing field and allow all employees -- not just the CEO -- to exchange ideas and impact the company’s future. They encourage directional thinking, and the results can be leveraged into focused initiatives that keep your business ahead of the curve.
Here are four innovation games you should try playing with your company:
1. Sacred Cows
Whether driven by culture or predisposition, every business is held back by assumed notions they take for granted. However, with a little introspection, you’ll notice that many of these hang-ups are manmade fabrications.
“Sacred Cows” allows you and your team to break away from a restrictive viewpoint and unlock new possibilities. Innovation grows freely once companies dig deep and realize their preconceptions are unfounded.
To play, participants should identify a list of constraining assumptions their company takes for granted. Then, for each, identify how things would change if these misconceptions simply didn’t exist.
2. Bad Idea
Innovative thinking can come from terrible ideas and “Bad Idea” helps companies do just that.
To play, come up with a list of the most ridiculous services, offerings or initiatives that your business could take on. Then, in discovering why these ideas are so ridiculous, you can chip away at it until it becomes a great idea. Many bad ideas are so close to being great ideas -- you’d be surprised what you come up with.
3. What’s on Your Radar?
This game is useful when you have a lot of ideas and need to prioritize them. It encourages your company to view itself as an onion. At the center are the projects that matter the most and each layer outward becomes less critical. This is a great way to collect and store ideas for the future -- you’ll always have a prioritized list to work from.
To play, sit down as a group, and draw three concentric circles. Label them Primary, Secondary and Tertiary. Then, identify the ideas in your pipeline, assign them a category, and create your onion.
4. Abstraction Laddering
It’s easy to say you want to do something but solidifying the “why” and “how” is a whole other ballgame. Startups will often remain stagnant waiting for the answers to magically come to them rather than consciously figure it out themselves.
If you’re great at coming up with ideas but struggle putting them into action, “Abstraction Laddering” is the game for you. It produces targeted statements and value propositions while pinpointing actionable steps toward implementing ideas.
This is a simple game to play. Sit down as a group, identify the abstract ideas your company has and ask everyone to create clear, concise statements concerning why this idea is a good idea and how exactly it can be implemented. Then, compare everyone’s statements as a group and discuss the best plan of action.
Innovation games instill a future-minded, solutions-oriented mindset across entire companies. Bad ideas become great ones, and new ideas become easy to prioritize and implement.