Richard Harrison, director of Geminus Training, looks at how changing mindsets can help you get the best out of your staff. 

Ultimately, one of the biggest barriers to accessing the knowledge, experience and particularly creativity is Communication Apprehension. What is this and how do we address this to get the best from our workforce?

There is a common ‘fear’ within many people (including staff and event suppliers/customers) 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 Communication Apprehension). 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 because they think that in their place of work they have to behave a certain way, often similar to that of their childhood classroom. They’re not allowed to shout out, suggest something different or speak out of turn. This is a major cultural issue – we need to let people know it’s ok to think beyond heir job description and it’s also okay to question this cultural status quo.

Getting over this is essential if we’re going to capitalise on the capabilities within our workforce. What happens when you ask them to drop the ‘work persona’ and be more of the person they are in their own time? Suddenly, the rock climber who successfully navigated a challenging climb on the weekend starts to apply their knowledge and creativity to their place of work. The artist who creates masterpieces of work in their private time starts to add a bit of flair to their work, creating something fantastic.

However, the biggest results appear when you ask an employee to become someone else altogether – where they’re not responsible for ideas and thoughts generated by this ‘other persona.’

I believe that people can be passionate about the value of their personality and reputation and don’t want to damage this. This is why we so often develop different personas in and out of work. When someone has the freedom to act as someone else altogether, then it’s that ‘persona’ who absorbs and suffers the damage from negative comment. This ‘other persona’ is more likely to push the boundaries of what they’d 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.

These new ideas included making things more fluffy, developing the waiting system to add entertainment, bombarding customers with related products at the end of a ride (read this as service or experience). 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 ‘fluffy’ idea led to a service with increased customer care and attention. The ‘waiting system’ provided clients with things to do including a diagnostic while they were waiting for their forthcoming training days. Finally, the ‘bombarding customers’ idea was toned down but resulted in cross-selling other products and offering add-ons at the completion of a client intervention to retain custom.

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.

If you’d like to know more about how Geminus Training can help your business prosper, please feel free to contact Richard at richard@geminustraining.com. 

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