How to foster an innovative culture on a shoestring - SmartBrief

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How to foster an innovative culture on a shoestring

3 min read


Who needs to be told that these are troubling times?  You sure don’t. But I wonder completely aware we are of the impact that wall-to-wall anxiety is having on our innovativeness and competitiveness.

You know that expression, “Freeze in terror.”  But when your people are allowed to experience a certain set of positive emotions, as identified by University of North Carolina Professor Barbara Fredrickson, creativity starts to flow smoothly again.  She calls it broaden-and-build behaviors that come from three positive emotions: joy, interest and contentment.

She wrote in Prevention & Treatment: “Cultivated positive emotions not only counteract negative emotions, but also broaden individuals’ habitual modes of thinking and build their personal resources for coping.”

And, weirdly, as a leader in your company, you have the advantage.  Even though we know that job security is out the window (which makes contentment something of a reach), more and more we’re hearing that people actually enjoy going to work as an escape from the problems in their personal lives.  And, wouldn’t it be great if those positive emotions actually spilled over into your employees’ personal lives and personal and workplace positivity began grow exponentially as a result?

Joy, interest and contentment, huh?  How those three words translate in your workplace completely depends on the nature of your work and business.  Here are some ideas:

  • Joy: There has been quite a lot of research that shows how employees who can see how their efforts directly benefit their customers tend to be the most satisfied with their work. So one way to heighten joy is to remind your people of the meaning their efforts hold for others. In my own research I’ve boiled meaningful work down to three outcomes: To relieve pain; to restore hope; to bring beauty into the world. Help your people understand how their efforts achieve one or more of those three outcomes and be prepared to see new lights of fresh energy and commitment turn on in your workplace.
  • Interest: Are your people appropriately placed in jobs that are right for them? Or have they somehow slid into roles and deliverables that they never would have signed up for during that initial job interview? Are they still learning and growing in areas that actually mean something to them personally?
  • Contentment: Can they focus on those interesting areas without being distracted by office politics? Abusive bosses? Bullying co-workers?  Energy-depleting rumors? Are they proud of your company? Do they have the opportunity to talk about what makes them deeply appreciative of the company they work for and the people they work with?

It wasn’t that long ago when having a game table or free-flowing sodas and gourmet coffee was the engagement gambit for employers who wanted to keep their people happy, interested, contented and there. In rare cases those workplace delights did the trick. But more and more, especially in these days when arrested development is no longer adorable, everyone wants a more adult relationship with their jobs and their co-workers.

Focus on joy, interest and contentment as the foundation for your engagement culture that fosters great ideas and resilience. You’ll be amazed at the innovations that will emerge from your new fun workplace. And you can cut down on the toy budget!

Martha Finney, president and CEO of Engagement Journeys, helps companies build authentically engaging workplace cultures.  She is the author of more than 15 books, including The Truth About Getting the Best From People.

Image credit,  narvikk, via iStock