SPD Innovation
Helping you pilot ministry initiatives

Creating the Conditions

Creative collaboration is a key ingredient to the process of innovation. Achieving a culture of innovation is something many organisations strive for, yet few achieve. Creative collaboration isn’t something that comes about by chance. It requires intentional leadership and guidance, creating the right conditions for collaboration to thrive. Often this is referred to as ‘culture’. The good news is that you can shape the beliefs and behaviours in your team, unlocking creativity and nurturing a culture of innovation.

In 2016, Google studied 180 teams to determine why some thrive while others don’t. They found that teams capable of creating a trusting and respectful environment were more likely to use the power of diversity, bring in more revenue, and were rated twice as effective by executives.

Amy Edmondson from Harvard Business School attributes this phenomenon to what she calls Psychological Safety; a conditions where team members feel they can suggest ideas, admit mistakes, and take risks without negative consequence.

Turns out that there are three values which underpin and help to create this environment of trust and respect: learning, curiosity, and vulnerability. These three values work together in a feedback loop. Adopting an attitude of intellectual humility, learning, and curiosity encourages others to be vulnerable and contribute with unique and creative ideas, confident that their contribution will be respected and valued.

In his book The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle talks about to a process which psychologists call status management. Team members spend precious energy “…figuring out where they fit into the larger picture: Who is in charge? Is it okay to criticise someone’s idea? What are the rules here? Their interactions appear smooth, but their underlying behaviour is riddled with inefficiency, hesitation, and subtle competition. Instead of focusing on the task, they are navigating their uncertainty about one another.”

In the right culture, a synergy is achieved where a team of highly skilled professionals may be outperformed by a team with modestly skilled individuals who collaborate effectively. The individual skills are less important than the interaction between team members. This concept is vividly illustrated by the Navy Seal Log PT exercises when team members perform a variety of manoeuvres with telegraph poles. Without near perfect synchronicity and team work, these exercises would be impossible to perform.

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Philippians 2:3-4

There are many things you can do to foster an environment of trust and respect within your team: listen carefully to your team members, create team rules, establish relationship-building rituals, call out unhelpful or subversive behaviour, make sure that each member has a voice, celebrate diversity, celebrate taking initiative and unsolicited contribution, and repeatedly promote the values of learning, curiosity, and vulnerability. In a future article, we will take a look at more practical ways to make innovation a reality in your team.

Maddy Voinea – Ministry Innovations & Marketing Leader, Ministry & Strategy Team | South Pacific Division

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