Innovation thrives in environments where people are open to new ideas. Supporting team members who are committed to life-long learning and who are willing to adapt and innovate will help the project group stay current and efficient in its use of resources, its approach to solving problems, and its execution of initiatives.
Unfortunately, time pressures and expanding workloads often mean that project meetings are consumed with discussions about how current efforts are going. Most recurring meetings revolve around providing progress reports as well as reactively addressing risks or challenges that have cropped up since the last gathering.
This formula doesn’t allow for innovation within your project management team. Your group needs time to evaluate not only problems that are already on the radar, they also need an opportunity to proactively explore practices and processes that would enable them to carry out their tasks more efficiently, to save money, or to enhance project execution in a way that delivers more value to the organization.
If you want to achieve better results, you need to carve out time—and not just during quarterly or annual reviews—to solicit ideas from your team on new ways to innovate. Consider some of the proactive themes you can incorporate into your normal group discussions.
With near-term project activities taking center stage, it’s common for project teams to leave conversations about the mentoring program for another time. Individuals’ participation in a mentor-mentee partnership should be treated as sensitive, of course, but you can still approach innovation at the program level. By ensuring the group is aware of mentoring opportunities and by fostering an appreciate for your organization’s program and its benefits, you can tap the project team’s collective expertise to find ways to further elevate mentoring efforts. An innovative mentoring program not only helps you fill internal knowledge gaps, it can also be a powerful recruiting tool in a competitive employment environment.
Ongoing education and training
Too often, conversations about career development are limited to budget cycle planning and periodic performance reviews. By setting aside time to discuss ongoing education on a more frequent basis, your team is better able to maintain awareness of upcoming opportunities to grow their knowledge base. They can help to shape and refine the organization’s training strategy to ensure that emerging issues and trends are factored into the program. Encouraging your project group members to remain engaged in in expanding their skills and staying at the leading edge of best practices pays dividends in the form of improved team dynamics and a stronger commitment to success.
Brainstorming sessions usually occur when the team has an immediate problem to solve, but you’re definitely missing big opportunities to improve your operations if that’s the only time you use the group’s shared knowledge to target a specific issue. Instead, you should be coming together to conceptualize new ways to carry out activities and to analyze where existing workflows are outdated or inefficient. Consider dedicating some time on a regular basis to different areas that you would like to optimize. For example:
- New methods of conserving limited resources
- Ideas to remove long-standing operational bottlenecks or constraints
- Ways to reduce waste within a defined set of processes
- Updated approaches to stakeholder engagement
- Expanded avenues for communicating project wins and milestones
Don’t restrict your group’s creative outflows to solving right-now problems. Finding innovative solutions to issues that are less pressing can be tremendously valuable over the long run and you’ll reap big rewards by making a proactive effort to put your team’s combined expertise and experience to the task.