When people think of innovation, they often
The challenge for many organizations is that change is hard. According to a survey by Gartner, "The biggest threat to innovation is internal politics and an organizational culture which doesn’t accept failure, doesn’t accept ideas from outside, and/or cannot change." The barrier isn’t that people don’t have great ideas; its that there are roadblocks that prevent those ideas from being considered and enacted.
Rather than wait for people to come forward with ideas for positive change, smart leaders embrace the concept of crowdsourcing innovation by creating an environment where creativity and calculated risk-taking can flourish.
The first step is to get clarity about what innovation means and who is responsible for it. Folks need to be dissuaded of the notion that innovation occurs in the R & D department. People will be most successful in proposing changes to the status quo if they understand the overall objectives of the organization and how to align improvement work with those goals. The first step is to open up the conversation and develop a framework for discussion.
People will not participate in innovation if they perceive it to be a high-risk endeavor. It is important to take a hard look at how your organization handles failure. Are the downsides to trying something new too large compared to the potential rewards? Are new ideas ridiculed or easily dismissed? If so, people will reasonably hold back. Organizations in which people experiment and share ideas are those that have a high degree of trust and a history of positive responses to change. If yours isn’t there yet, start applauding any attempt at improvement and encouraging people to “fail forward.”
If the same minds are working on the same problem day after day, week after week, you are probably going to get the same results. Sometimes bringing in an outside perspective can “unstick” the dam of ideas and get people thinking about an issue in a new way. Breaking down the silos between teams by encouraging cross-functional collaboration and brainstorming is essential to getting all perspectives on the table.
“That’s just how we do it around here,” should never be a good enough reason to keep doing what’s always been done. With few exceptions, no “rule” is sacrosanct. One way to combat the tendency to keep the same old habits is to encourage people to ask lots of questions. The 5 Why’s is an excellent technique for digging into the reasons processes are what they are and potentially uncovering opportunities for improvement.
Crowdsourcing innovation requires a structure for collecting, assessing, and acting upon employee ideas for improvement. People will be much more likely to engage if they can see their ideas and those of their colleagues making an impact on the business. Innovation technology should make it possible for people to submit ideas from anywhere on any device. It should provide workflow capabilities to notify people when new opportunities are added or when tasks are due.
Your innovation software should make it easy to calculate the impact of positive change and support your effort to cement a culture of innovation by broadcasting successful improvement projects. People who contribute to positive change should be recognized and rewarded. Even projects that don’t ultimately result in improvement should be applauded, and every effort should be made to learn from the experience.
As Kevin O’Leary of Shark Tank fame likes to say, “Nobody has a monopoly on good ideas.” Your employees probably have some smart thoughts about how to get more out of your existing resources, bring products to a broader audience, improve visitor safety, and delight more customers. Why not capitalize on them all?