Many businesses and leaders struggle to get new ideas from their teams. To change this, it’s important to create an atmosphere of psychological safety, where each team member feels empowered to speak and share. Getting this right is all about putting in place structures, spaces and a culture that encourages free exchange of ideas and information.

Here are six ways to create a safe space for innovation and ideation in your business:

  1. Create time and places for creative thinking 

While some innovation happens on the fly as we do our day-to-day jobs, most of us don’t have the luxury doing things differently when there are deadlines to be met. That’s why setting aside some time each week, month or quarter to brainstorm new ideas is important—it creates the space to think beyond tried-and-tested ways of getting the job done towards how to do things better.

  1. Say ‘yes and’ rather than ‘yes but’ 

During brainstorming sessions, leaders should reject ‘yes but’ conversations in favour of ‘yes and’ improvisation. Rather than saying “Yes, but we’ve tried that before and it didn’t work”, say, “Yes, and this time we’ll do it differently”. Or rather than saying “It’s a nice idea, but we don’t have budget”, try, “Yes, and maybe we can afford it by reallocating funding from another programme or doing it on a smaller scale”.

  1. Allow for healthy conflict 

A healthy corporate culture allows for disagreement since nothing kills innovation faster than groupthink. Managers and leaders should create spaces where people are encouraged to debate, respectfully disagree and voice their opinions. Stifling dissent can suppress good ideas and make people wary of speaking out, even when they can see the company might be making a major mistake.

  1. Offer a range of forums for sharing ideas 

While brainstorming sessions can be a great way to unleash creative thinking, not all members of the team will be comfortable to publicly share their ideas in front of the group. Others might be better at expressing themselves in writing than verbally. A physical suggestion box for anonymous ideas or a Microsoft Teams channel where people can jot down their ideas can give them a forum to share their thinking.

  1. Don’t punish mistakes or weak ideas 

If team members are to share their ideas—some of which might be left-field, yet brilliant—they need to know they will not be ridiculed or downgraded for their ideas. In addition to rewarding good ideas (whether through financial incentives or public recognition), ensure that employees feel acknowledged for engaging and sharing their thoughts.

  1. Be inclusive in decision-making 

When making major decisions, leaders should seek input and feedback from their teams. This can help to build consensus for strategic changes to the business as well as reassure people that opinions and ideas matter. This can give them to the confidence to share their ideas more often and more widely, knowing that they’ll be heard.

[Photo bSushiman on Adobe Stock]