Unlocking Creativity: Leveraging Team Ideas to Revolutionize IT Operations
Great ideas are a dime a dozen, but truly awe-inspiring ideas are rare. As IT leaders, we can't chase those seldom seen breakthrough ideas, though it's always exciting when one comes along. But for the rest of the time, we have to work with what we have and that's usually an ample supply of good or great ideas. But we all know the idea, itself, isn't the end point but the beginning. It's the spark that can light the fire that engages and motivates the team to deliver stellar results - and if a good idea can have that impact then maybe it's not fair to demote it to just a 'good' idea. Maybe the right idea at the right time becomes great because it resonates with the team, with the leaders, and with the objectives of the organization. Those moments are priceless, but how can we engineer more of these into our work rather than waiting passively for that to happen? We can unlock our team's creativity by engaging them in looking at how we can improve the work we do.
Let's look at a three tactics you can try.
ASK YOUR TEAM. How often do you ask your team for new ideas? How often in a work day do you think "you know, we could do this better" but you don't stop to note it or act on it?
USE YOUR TEAM MEETINGS FOR IDEATION. Perhaps you can use part of your team meeting for coming up with new ideas. If the adage good ideas are a dime a dozen, your team should be able to come up with a few good ideas worth exploring. Not every team meeting needs to have this focus, but making it a regular part of the meeting can help it stay visible. Perhaps have brief idea pitch sessions where two people present ideas to the team. If your ground rules make it a safe space, you can have a lot of fun with it and often, good ideas become better through group interaction.
CONDUCT QUARTERLY IDEATION SESSIONS. You can gather the team for a half-day (or even one-two hour) session once per quarter for the express purpose of exploring ideas. You can create cross-functional teams for the event and have people who don't regularly work together form a team. Gaining insights from across Service Desk, Desktop, Network, Systems, Cybersecurity, Enterprise Applications, Interfaces, Data Analytics/Data Engineering, and any other IT teams you have will help broaden perspectives and build relationships.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD IDEA?
You'll need to decide for your teams what constitutes a good idea - and that's completely up to you. But, in keeping with my new book, Renovating Healthcare IT - Building the Foundation for Digital Transformation, you should focus in on ideas that will either improve operations (IT or in the broader business), reduce costs or simply get rid of stupid stuff (shout out to Craig Joseph, MD and Jerome Pagani, PhD and their excellent new book Designing for Health - The Human-Centered Approach, a must-read for anyone in healthcare but for anyone interested in human-centered design).
Too often in IT, we are consumed with the fast-paced, ever-increasing demand for more, better, faster, cheaper IT - and most of the time, we deliver. However, when we fail to carve out time to maintain and improve our basic systems, they become clutter, gummed-up, and less functional. Over time, they either run at the speed of sludge or they fail - sometimes slowly and quietly, and other times quite spectacularly. Use your good ideas and some of your reserved operational time to work on these improvements. Anything that is not maintained will ultimately fail and that includes your basic IT operations.
If you're looking for a roadmap for making these kinds of improvements, check out my new book. It covers IT from end to end and you can select a category and challenge your team to come up with some ideas for improvement. Pick the best one (based on your criteria), engage the team in a sprint to make substantial improvement in a short burst (or series of bursts) and you'll be amazed how great your IT operations and you teams are after 12 months.