A lot has been said about technological innovation in the newsroom. Less focus has been placed on the human behavior and strategy behind it.
At the Incubadora de Liderazgo (Leadership Incubator, in English), which we at Chicas Poderosas held in 2021 with the support of the Google News Initiative, we discussed intersectional forms of leadership and how to incorporate more inclusive work practices. Mentors and speakers shared with 25 Latin American media outlets how instilling effective team dynamics, and encouraging collaboration and diversity can help journalists promote innovation in the newsroom.
Here, we share some of the ideas discussed to rethink innovation in the media.
Design thinking can help you take a first step to solve problems you’re facing — by identifying, classifying and structuring them, explained Charo Henríquez, an editor at The New York Times. At the same time, focus your efforts on conducting “small experiments,” she said: If we try to address multiple challenges at the same time, it can be difficult to measure the results.
An effective experiment requires being intentional with actions and outcomes, too, she added.
It is important to set goals and be clear on what your definition of success is. Being realistic about obstacles can help us structure this process. It is also crucial to set a time period to conduct testing and experiments.
In creating collaborative spaces, keep in mind that there is more than one way to work together. Collaboration comes in many forms, so we recommend approaching it in a way that best fits you and your team.
Taking the time to get to know your colleagues is a perfect starting point, said the internationalist Belén Arce Terceros, a former editorial and communications director at Chicas Poderosas. Learn about their prior work experience, what tools they’re familiar with, and what they would like to try, she said. This will allow you to better understand each other.
Leaving behind individual and vertical decision-making practices is also necessary. In their place, actively seek to create horizontal practices. Consider creating safe spaces where everyone on the team can express their ideas and concerns. This is as important as reaching common understandings on aspects of working together, such as meeting dynamics, tools and availability — especially if you are working remotely.
Finally, it is necessary to normalize asking for help and to think of this type of work as a collective learning process. Collaboration allows us to go further, and achieve our goals.
Rotating leadership can help your organization break away from traditional structures.
Yásnaya Elena Aguilar Gil proposed that team members test themselves in different roles. This not only allows them to learn something different and develop new skills, she explained, but it also reinforces empathy. If you put yourself in the shoes of a coworker or an editor for two weeks, you may come to understand the challenges that some leadership positions face, and vice versa.
Rotation can also help team members rest and share a small part of their workload.
“Diversity is a tremendous leadership school,” said Ophelia Pastrana. Building teams with different perspectives allows us to design disruptive stories and innovate.
To do this, start by reflecting on whether your work processes include everyone in your organization. Ask yourself if you are actively listening and creating spaces for participation and ideas, while practicing empathy along the way.
A code of conduct based on respect promotes safe work dynamics. It’s important to facilitate conversations that enable team members to express different points of view, and encourage them to do so.
Identifying and eliminating exclusionary practices allows inclusion itself. For example, if you still do not have work practices that incorporate a gender perspective, such as asking about the pronouns of your team members to respect their gender identity, having a diverse team can lead you to create them. In doing so, you introduce more inclusive methodologies, including in the stories your outlet publishes.
Creating an innovation strategy is not a simple task. Fortunately, a collaborative work process can ease the burden. The results may surprise you.
Here’s a simple test that you can try: Ask yourself and your team what you all want to accomplish, then explain why. Whatever your goals may be, make sure of the reasons behind why you’ve set them.
Once you know the “what” and “why,” think about the “how.” Brainstorm multiple strategies and then prioritize. You can design a roadmap and use a Gantt chart to help you see the big picture, and to set goals across clear timelines. This can also help you identify the resources you have and the ones you don't. Don't forget to think of the results and the impact you expect. Measuring can help us learn and improve.
When creating innovative practices or products, do so with your team. Listen more, and listen better. Believe in them, trust the process and have fun doing it.