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Recently I met with a team member who had just returned from an extended break, and the first thing she said was “I’ve got some ideas I’d like discuss with you”. She then proceeded to talk me through a list of exciting, innovative suggestions to tackle long held problems.
So what happened? Was I a slave driver that expected her to be working, even on vacation? No. She summed it up perfectly:
” I wasn’t working, I was thinking.”
And this got me thinking. Where has our thinking space gone, and shouldn’t we always be thinking at work?
If you look at most of your team’s day I would guarantee that it’s filled with meetings, scheduled tasks and a list of urgent actions to implement. What this means is that they address issues and solve problems with immediate ideas and easy solutions. Do they get the chance or have the time to think deeply to offer longer term solutions?

Thinking through pros and cons, options and consequences is an essential part of innovating and producing solutions which go beyond day-to-day operational business problem solving. Are we creating the space and environment for this to happen?
If we want innovation, we have to allow room for our people to think!
How might we do this when the lists are long and the priorities urgent? Here are a few ideas:
1. Schedule time for innovation or process improvement each week – let every team member have some downtime in which to reflect on their work and free-wheel solutions
2. Encourage them to think big – make sure your team knows that no idea is a silly idea, and all ideas are welcome, no matter how big, small or off the wall they seem
3. Let team members choose a personal work project as well as the business ones you set
– they still have to complete the business project but working on something they are passionate about can produce great results and really energise them for their other tasks
4. Create a reading area and invest in some great books that will inspire your team – learning can inspire creativity and help to produce fresh ideas
5. Schedule an innovation day for the team – let them spend some time working on their own ideas and present this to you at the end of the day.

These are just a few ideas and you will no doubt have a few of your own. We would be keen to hear from you. Remember innovation needs inspiration, engagement and support to flourish, so make sure you give your team room to think and you will see the benefits!