Innovation thrives in environments where new ideas are welcomed, where it’s okay to take risks — and where it’s okay fail. Organizations that are in the habit of valuing outcomes over effort may be squashing employees’ most innovative ideas before they even have a chance. This organizational attitude won’t change overnight, but it is possible to take immediate action to encourage innovation by cultivating a feedback culture.
What’s a feedback culture? It’s an environment where everyone — leaders, managers, and, most importantly, team members — believes that they can improve at what they do individually and collectively and commits to helping each other get better through honest feedback and accountability.
These organizations have a widespread “growth mindset.” Coined by Dr. Carol Dweck, a growth mindset is the belief that we all have room to grow and get better. Success comes with effort, practice, embracing challenges and taking risks. Without a growth mindset, there is no innovation, and a culture of regular feedback is one of the best ways to build those growth mindset muscles in your people.
Here are some steps you can take to build a feedback culture within your organization.
- Start a dialogue about the concept of having a growth mindset. Share our favorite growth mindset video with your team. Have a conversation about the power of getting better. Ask them about experiences they can remember of being in both fixed and growth mindsets. The more people understand and aspire to develop a growth mindset, the easier it is for them to give and receive feedback.
- Get people to ask for feedback. We spend a lot of time coaching managers to give feedback, but it’s a whole lot easier to get everyone in the habit of asking for feedback. Research shows that it’s painful and uncomfortable to give feedback, but when someone shows they are open to feedback by asking for it, the conversation can happen much more naturally.. Plus, they can direct their requests to areas where they feel feedback would be helpful.
- Celebrate mistakes. Focus less on the mistake and more on what can be learned from it. The fear of failure will choke out any spark of innovation. After all, why try if you are not going to be rewarded for going out on a limb? Let things get a little messy. Encourage experimentation. Then, reward effort. Reward the brave hearts who take a chance.
While you’re taking these actions to create a feedback culture within your organization, take some time for introspection, too. How can you model for your team adopting new ways of work or being open to new ideas? How can you model asking for feedback — and accepting it graciously, with a growth mindset? You might even want to think about taking some public chances so that you can show your team that no matter what the outcome, the success was in the willingness to take a risk and innovate.