No one knows for sure, but some of the best innovations of the past half century may have been introduced in the breakroom. Coworkers converging at the coffee machine may have shared a question or an idea and the exchange produced the products we use every today – post-it notes, whiteboards, smartphones.
Ideas are the currency of business, the invisible power that produces innovation. But the tennis ball of invention needs a wall to bounce off of. We need people around us to hear our imaginings, and either endorse or challenge to push the concept to reality. esd recently coined a word for the people that fire our energy for change, the people that encourage creative thinking and spark breakthroughs – “coinspirators.”
You probably have these people in your life, friends that listen and interact long enough to understand, then respond with constructive, encouraging feedback. You know people who model creative thinking and inspire you to push through the fog into clarity. When you have something cool enough to put down in an email, you know friends you can send it to who will actually open, read and respond to the email.
So how do you develop a cadre of coinspirators in your working environment?
1. get positive
Your first coinspirator has to be the person in the mirror. Feel good about your job: identify your company’s mission and commit to it. Any time you see any colleague or vendor implementing the mission, celebrate out loud. Be the positive energy you are trying to inspire in your team.
2. liberal praise, conservative correction
An old standard for brainstorming is no negatives. In early collaboration, it’s important not to discount any idea. Trashing an idea – even a ridiculous notion – discourages further thinking, and may keep the thinker from suggesting the best solution later in the session. Coinspirators say, “good job” without a second thought, and count to 10 before correcting.
3. art for art’s sake, poetry just because it sounds nice
Encourage expression in the office – sketches, doodles, good lines, inspiring quotes. Use nearby surfaces like the refrigerator door at home – a gallery for flights of fancy and other good ideas. Notice – and celebrate in a coinspirational whisper – the artwork and poetry appearing near the desks around you.
4. form a cheerleading squad
Cheerleading in the office is not additional duty or something registered on a sign-up sheet. Start by being a cheerleader yourself, by being positive even in negative situations (find that silver lining). Then take stock of your coworkers – where is the positive human energy? Cultivate these vital resources, and you’ll have a core team of coinspirators.