Innovation in the workplace not only helps companies stay competitive and profitable, but they are also happier workplaces, with consistently higher results in terms of employee satisfaction and retention.
Leading organizations are now paying more attention to the advantages of encouraging innovation than ever before. Many companies now have chief innovation officers to help drive new improvements and systems. Of course, there's a big difference between wanting to become more innovative and actually doing it.
There's no one solution to how to encourage innovation. The method differs from company to company and depends on the workplace culture, inherent systems, and team members' talents and skills.
In this post, we'll take a look at 10 ways to encourage innovation in your organization.
1. Encourage your employees to think about challenging problems
As Steve Jobs famously said, "It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do."
Your employees are as innovative as you let them be. If you empower your staff to speak up when they see an opportunity for improvement, you'll start to develop a more dynamic and innovative culture.
2. Adopt a non-hierarchical way of working
When it comes to accelerating workplace innovation, a strict hierarchy can be a real problem. If your team works deferentially and only thinks about positive change when specifically asked to do so, you won't reach your company's full potential.
The most innovative organizations have a flat but solid management approach so that employees can break down silos and barriers between functional areas. Many creative ideas come from cross-collaboration between teams and divisions and the sharing of best practices.
3. Give your employees a reason to care about innovation
Whether they say it aloud or not, employees want to know what's in it for them. Find ways to incentivize staff to think about innovation and bring them along the road toward your most important objectives by developing an ongoing innovation strategy.
4. Find and motivate influencers
Influencers sometimes called "Intrapreneurs," are team members who already have the mindset and the skills to innovate. Finding and motivating these folks is a surefire way to encourage a more innovative approach to problem-solving.
5. Encourage your people to think about innovation every day
Innovation isn't something people should think about only during annual planning or rapid improvement events. If finding new ways of working is seen only as an occasional occurrence, you won't be able to benefit from the full potential of your employees' creativity and imagination. Make room for your team to consider innovation as part of their daily priorities.
6. Develop and deploy a strategic plan
A well-communicated strategy helps to clarify what goals and objectives should receive the highest priority. By sharing the plan, leaders give employees increased certainty about the core mission and the role of employee innovation in achieving it.
Developing the strategy also forces senior leaders to think about where innovation is most needed and to state in clear terms how employees should contribute new ideas for improvement.
7. Embrace the idea of failing forward
Innovation always carries the risk of failure. For every breakthrough, there's a whole pile of failed ideas. Rather than pretending that every experiment results in success, smart organizations come to peace with failure. Acknowledge and accept the possibility of failure, normalize it, and encourage risky changes to help employees be less fearful of innovation.
8. Engage in transparent communication
Your staff needs straight-forward, consistent information about the company's goals and the potential benefits for employees if they are achieved. When it comes to innovation, knowledge is power, so the more employees know about where the organization stands in terms of its objectives, the better. Decision making is always improved when as much information as possible is shared.
9. Recognize and reward productive innovation
To get the most out of your staff when it comes to improvement, it is essential to have a way to recognize and reward creative new ideas, especially when they have the potential to reduce waste or increase revenue.
Recognition doesn't need to be complicated. It can be as simple as broadcasting success and showing appreciation. Financial rewards are always welcome but not inherently necessary.
10. Implement innovation software
Innovation isn't only dependent on creative thinking and talent. With the right technology, processes, and encouragement, anyone can be an innovator and find new improvement opportunities.
Innovation management software provides structure and support for the next big idea. By structuring opportunity capture, collaboration, communication, and setting guidelines for problem-solving, the right solution can foster an innovation culture across the entire organization.
An organization empowered to innovate isn't something you achieve overnight. It takes effort, broad-participation, and patience. But when you start to see the impacts of people's creative ideas, you'll know you are on the right path. Hopefully, these tips will speed your journey.