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“Become someone else”​ to drive new business ideas

When you ask an employee to become someone else – a “persona” if you like – then the rules of the workplace no longer apply.

Communication Apprehension is one of the biggest barriers to businesses wanting to identify new ideas. How do we address this to get the best from our workforce?

There is a common “fear” within staff that if they voice an idea, no matter how good or bad it is, they will be ridiculed by someone – This makes them apprehensive about communicating (hence the term). The comment might come from the extremely negative person who simply doesn’t see the creative aspect, or it may be the budget holder who thinks it’s too expensive. Or worse still, a manager who doesn’t want to accept that their staff can have better ideas than them.

At present, I believe that each employee brings at most 20% of their knowledge, experience and creativity to work.

This is a factor of culture more than anything else, but getting over this is essential if we’re going to capitalise on the capabilities within our workforce. However, we found that when you ask an employee to become someone else – a “persona” if you like, then the rules of the workplace no longer apply.

I believe that people can be passionate about the value of their personality and reputation and don’t want to damage this. However, when they’re acting as someone else then it’s that “persona” who absorbs and suffers the damage from negative comment. This means that the “persona” is more likely to push the boundaries of what they’s normally do, bringing in wider life experiences, knowledge and creativity – and suggesting new ideas they wouldn’t have otherwise suggested.

In a recent exercise, we asked a client team to give themselves new names and become the board at Disney. They then addressed the same problem that their company had, but from a tongue-in-cheek Disney viewpoint. Communication Apprehension went out of the window, and a wealth of new ideas came from the team. While some would have been deemed “ridiculous” by the original team in their true selves, the ideas prompted further thought and rationalisation, leading to a much wider set and scope of final propositions.

The moral is simple – provide your workforce with a creative environment, and they will reward you with creative solutions.

What’s more, is that they’ll enjoy it so much they’ll want to contribute more and more to the business. Before you know it’s you’ll be developing an organisational culture of growth through innovative thinking.

Richard Harrison