A Wide Open Mind Leads to Innovation and a Wide Open Workspace

by Elizabeth Dukes on February 24, 2015

Having an open mind is perhaps one of the most difficult, yet rewarding traits those in a leadership position must possess. An open-minded and flexible leader invokes trust that spreads throughout the workforce, opening up the door to free thinking and collaborative conversations. As the FM, you are faced with the unique opportunity to help develop such a culture in your organization.

“Any organization that wants to innovate, wants to be prepared to innovate, I think, has to have a few things in place…Perhaps the most important thing is methods for having an open mind.” – Tim Brown, CEO of Ideo

Innovation starts with facilities managers and other leaders of the organizationWhat kind of leader do you want to be – one that stifles conversation and creativity or that inspires innovation at every level? Consider these principals when defining how you want to lead your team.

Experience doesn’t make you right. It is easy to assume your years of experience have brought you a wealth of knowledge, offering you all the answers. The truth is, times are changing and with that, comes new methods and ideologies. The only way to keep up is to be open to new, fresh ideas.

Avoid old patterns. Part of keeping an open mind means being open and honest with yourself, recognizing when mistakes have been made or your methods are ineffective. What worked ten years ago might be irrelevant now.

In business, things are never black and white. When you encourage collaboration, participants feed off the creative energy, resulting in many ideas and methods being tossed around. The final solution may be the very first idea suggested, or a combination of several. The key is to work together – at the very least, your team will be stronger for it.

Curiosity did not kill the cat. Change is the only constant, and the only way to stay on top is to learn from those around you. This applies not only to your team; it also includes the outside world. Learn from the triumphs and mistakes of others in your industry.

“When you realize that we’re influenced by so many things that we don’t even pay attention to, then you can start seeing the opportunities in your midst. If you don’t pay attention, not only do you not realize what’s affecting you, but you also don’t see the problems that can be turned into opportunities.” – Tina Seelig

You never want to be “the expert.” Once you feel as though you have all the answers, you close yourself off to the world. Wake up each day with a fresh, new mind and you will never be stifled by your experiences. Of course, you should hold onto the knowledge you’ve gained through your experiences, just don’t let them define you, hindering you from forward progress.

“Many organizations are now actively pursuing and promoting more collaborative work while trying to force-fit evolving processes into existing workplaces. Like Cinderella’s slipper on the wrong foot, it’s an uncomfortable compromise. But most find themselves at a loss for what to alter.” –Steelcase

As the Leader, It’s Your Job to Bring People Together

The challenges management faces today require unifying people, places, and things, often from multiple locations. Ours is a very culturally diverse workforce, which means each individual brings something unique to the table. We must be open to new concepts and new methods. When we get out from behind our computers and pool these diverse perspectives, great ideas are born, leading us down a path to greatness.

Encourage collaboration amongst your workforce, not just in the open workspace, but through social interaction as well. This helps everyone learn about and accept each other, leading to mutual respect for the talents their teammates contribute. Not only will the employees feel more engaged and respected at work, your organization will attract lead talent in the industry, further strengthening your workforce.

Flexibility in the Workspace Unifies Your Workforce

Part of attracting and retaining the new generation of workers is about making the workplace inviting and accommodating. For many, it means redefining the workplace culture and the space itself. Many companies are finding that an open air office, with lots of shared space, is what draws their people out from behind their computers and gets them into the creative frame of mind. But the open office design has it’s own set of challenges. What about the employee who is facing a deadline, but is constantly distracted by the noise level? Where will you go when an important meeting is scheduled? The key is to accommodate all different work styles, while encouraging interaction – having something for everyone.

The most successful leaders are those who not only adapt to change, but encourage it. As technology evolves, so, too, should our organizations. To keep up with the growing demands in this competitive business world, companies must develop a workplace culture that promotes growth, creativity, and a sense of working together. As the facilities leader, such an environment starts with you.


Elizabeth Dukes

Elizabeth Dukes' pieces highlight the valuable role of the real estate and facility managers play in their organizations. Prior to iOFFICE, Elizabeth was in sales for large facility and office service outsourcing firm.

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