Designers Can’t Innovate Without Ownership

Designers Can’t Innovate Without Ownership

Designers Can’t Innovate Without Ownership

Everyone wants cutting-edge innovation to advance within their respective industries. However, innovation doesn’t come from a brainstorming session or even a stellar idea. It instead requires something more: a sense of ownership within the employees. They take the product personally when a sense of ownership is embedded. Thus, an organization needs a culture of ownership.

How can ownership drive innovation?

When creative workers own their work, they tend to have a strong personal attachment, connection, or investment towards it. Consequently, they feel more connected to it and take pride in the process and output. As a result, they will continuously refine it and view the product as theirs.

Ownership can also give a feeling of control and a sense of self-identity. As a result, the team tends to pour their heart and soul into their work, leading them to be explorative, pushing the boundary, and even innovative. Hence, leaders must integrate ownership culture into their company.

Like anything in this world, it is also important to note that ownership can be a double-edged sword. It can have several significant impacts but also be a setback to real progress.

The good and the bad of ownership

Those who mentor people in their job tend to be proud when their mentees progress, pushing themselves further. The same thing can be said for designers. Designers with a sense of ownership will be significantly more motivated to create better quality work, feel more satisfied with the end result, make sound decisions, and think more sustainably.

The very same sense of ownership can result in quite a defensive behavior. Being overprotective of one’s ownership may result in blindly defending one’s idea—or even rejecting ideas from others—despite knowing full well that it may not be the best. At worst, one might even forget the joy in it and be resentful towards themselves. Ultimately, it might even affect the relationship with the client negatively.

It is common to experience any of the mentioned above. However, with the pros and cons of ownership laid bare, it is crucial to strike a balance between the two.

Remember that even though having ownership can give a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, the work legally belongs to the company. So while it’s great that the designers give their all in what they do, they must learn to accept and let it go.

How to cultivate a culture of ownership

Who would be a better example of applying this mindset if not the leaders? A culture of ownership does not appear out of thin air. The leaders must enforce this mindset amongst themselves and the team. But how?

  • Focus on the why
    Often leaders are so obsessed with creating alignment around goals and metrics that they lose perspective. While ensuring team members know ‘what’ they need to achieve is vital, it’s still more important to understand the ‘why.’
  • Encourage collaboration
    This mentality encourages people to take care of problems, regardless of their size, to prevent the “that’s not my job” excuse. Ownership is a collective mindset.
  • Delegate authority, not responsibility
    Delegating authority increases a sense of ownership as people take the outcome more seriously. If they own their decision, they also own the consequences.
  • Reward the behavior, not the metric
    While it is important to use metrics to gauge something, judging someone’s indirect accountability is not something that should be taken lightly. Designers should own their impactful behaviors and do what’s right, not just what affects the metrics.
  • Focus on the end product, not the project
    The difference between focusing on the project and the end product is ownership. It encourages people to care about quality and outcome, not just deadlines or milestones.
  • Allow people to define standards
    When managers define goals and metrics, they feel foreign. It’s hard for people to own something that “comes from the top” without involvement and consultation.

Ownership makes or breaks an innovation

Ultimately, it is paramount that leaders should remind the team that their work and contribution are incredibly valued. Without the drive to achieve the company’s shared goal, having brilliant innovations within the projects would not be possible.

Establish a workplace culture that encourages people to take ownership of their work and be a leader that genuinely cares about their employees’ pride in their work.

Handoko Lun

Handoko Lun

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