When and where do you get your best ideas? On your commute? In the shower? While you are pulling weeds from the garden? Most of us get great ideas when we are simply noodling mentally while engaged in some physical activity that doesn’t require a lot of mental power. There is no pressure, no forcing, no criticism. We allow our powerful minds to come up with amazing ideas in the right environment—an environment where we are free to explore and feel safe.
A strengths-based culture is the perfect environment to foster innovation for these five reasons:
- Intention – There is a built in intention that we will focus on the best that each person has to offer, knowing that everyone brings their part of the puzzle and nobody has them all. We build interdependence in at the beginning, as an understanding that collaboration is essential. By focusing on attributes, talents and positive characteristics rather than weakness fixing, people feel safe enough to explore and experiment.
- Strengthsfinding Skills – In a strengths culture, people develop the skill of strengths spotting, a term I first saw used in Average to A+: Realising Strengths in Yourself and Others by Alex Linley. As coworkers become knowledgeable about the language of strengths, they begin to recognize the indicators that let them know that Jamie is great at seeing all the moving parts of a far-reaching project and Dave is really good at developing junior members of the team. As they learn to look for strengths, and synergistic collaborative partners, new ideas come out of those partnerships. We are focused on what is possible, and that is exciting.
- Experimentation Encouraged – Since the culture assumes that there is an amazing array of strengths at play and everyone brings value, there is an acceptance of failed attempts as part of the process which invites experimentation. People feel valued enough to take risks. They are more focused on what they bring than their insecurities.
- Great Ideas Can Come From Anywhere – In a strengths-based environment, we know that everyone brings a unique perspective both in terms of their natural talents and in the experiences they have had. Hence, everyone is invited to share ideas, regardless of their formal title or role. This builds respect and trust between people.
- Balanced Project Teams – When we know elements each strength naturally brings to the group, we can design teams to have a balance between tending to the tasks at hand and helping relationships operate smoothly. We can balance the great idea generators with those who excel at executing and moving the project forward. We can put someone with competition on a team to raise enthusiasm and energy. We can make sure someone on the team has strong communication so that the documentation or presentations are spot on.
These are but a few of the advantages a strengths culture lends to innovation and creative solutions. Perhaps even more compelling is that an environment like this is a place we want to bring our best because it honors the whole and the individual and everyone gets to contribute to the success of the company and the project.