How would you describe the culture in your workplace? Do your employees keep their heads down and complete the tasks assigned to them without rocking the boat? Do your meetings tend to be focused on logistical details rather than opportunities to think outside the box?
If this sounds familiar, your workplace could use an innovation boost. Perhaps you place a high value on innovation, but you can’t seem to find a way to weave that passion into the fabric of your company. You’re not alone. More than half of executives who desire to have an innovative company say they struggle to bridge the gap between innovation strategy and business strategy.
In spite of the challenges, many companies have stepped up to the plate and fostered an innovative spirit that impacts every single worker. Indigo is changing the future of agriculture through its development of sustainable farming practices that will likely transform the lives of both farmers and consumers. ThredUp aims to inspire brands and consumers to think secondhand in order to reduce the negative effects the fashion industry has on the planet.
These companies are built on innovation. Their employees have caught the bug...and their platforms have become more successful because of the culture they’ve created. Companies that focus on innovation gain many benefits, including increased profits, competitive advantage, market adaptability, and employee satisfaction.
Cultivating innovation requires innovation itself. You need to strategize and experiment with how to encourage innovation in the workplace. These tips are a great place to start.
1) Be open
Company culture starts with management, and transparency is key. It’s unreasonable to expect your employees to suddenly become innovative when your management doesn’t know how to promote creativity and innovation. Be clear about your company goals and how innovation plays a role. Create an open-door work environment (which sometimes means literally keeping your office door open).
The only way to inspire your employees to care about the success of the company as much as you do is to treat them well. No one wants to work for a dictator. Your employees will become passionate about your vision if you make an effort to show you care for them.
2) Make diverse hires
Picture a group of 10 people who come from a similar background and share the same basic assumptions. Now, think about a group of 10 diverse people with different backgrounds and experiences. Which group has a higher capacity for innovation?
When you make diversity a priority in your company, you automatically increase innovation potential. After all, your company is not only trying to reach customers who are just like you; I’m guessing your goal is to reach every part of society. How can you do that if everyone you hire looks and thinks like you?
3) Reward innovation
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.” The best way to inspire your “smart people” to share innovative ideas is to reward them.
You can do this by providing company-sponsored vacations, pay raises, special parking privileges, or whatever you think will energize your employees the most. Providing rewards builds a fun environment of friendly competition that ultimately results in higher innovation.
4) Push for teamwork
If the different departments of your company have little to no interaction with each other, you may need to reconsider your management approach. Look for ways to break down barriers between different teams and encourage them to collaborate.
Some companies have one or two departments that prioritize innovation above the others. In that case, it’s time to cross-pollinate. Mixing your employees from time to time will allow the innovative spirit to invade even the dustiest corners of the company.
5) Develop an innovation strategy
If you don’t have an innovation strategy yet, now is the time to establish one. This will clarify the expectations you have for your employees at every level of your company. Your employees will feel more comfortable with innovation if it’s part of their job descriptions.
Once you finish your innovation strategy, don’t be afraid to change it. This should not be a static objective; rather, it should evolve as the company develops and innovation grows. Seek feedback from your employees on how your innovation strategy can be improved.
6) Implement ideas quickly
Nothing kills a good idea faster than sending it through a lengthy approval process. That will only discourage your employees from presenting their ideas in the future. Instead, do whatever you can to take action quickly. This may mean cutting down on some of the internal red tape.
If an idea is unable to be implemented for whatever reason, cycle back to transparency. Make sure your employees understand exactly why the idea was rejected and how to improve in the future. Never make anyone feel ashamed for suggesting an idea that was refused.
7) Spice up your meetings
67% of employees complain that company meetings waste their time and prevent them from being productive. Yet, companies continue having meetings (for obvious reasons). The question is this: how can you make room for innovation in your meetings?
Now that virtual meetings have become the norm, employees are even more likely to zone out during a meeting. The best way to combat that is by making things exciting. Consider taking a few minutes for everyone to share new ideas or brainstorm solutions to a specific problem.
The only way to encourage innovation in your company is to invest in the resources needed to make it happen. You can’t expect to cultivate innovation without spending a dime. Your employees need margin in order to elevate their creativity.
Start by building an innovative office. It doesn’t have to be as fancy as Google, but it does need to have some kind of wow factor. Make sure you don’t overwork your employees. Someone who already comes early to the office and stays late will rarely have time to add innovation to his or her agenda. Most importantly, be patient. A culture of innovation is not built in a day. If you don’t see things take off right away, wait a little bit longer before slashing the innovation budget.
9) Promote risk-taking
Let’s face it, innovation can’t be born without failure. That’s why it’s so important to encourage your employees to take risks and to support them when their ideas fail. Your employees need to know their jobs are safe even if their ideas are unsuccessful from time to time.
Every once in a while, take a chance on an idea you’re not certain about. This willingness to experiment will trickle down and become the norm for your employees as well. The more you take risks, the more successful your company will become (even if it fails a few times along the way).
10) Take advantage of open innovation
One mistake many executives make is focusing on cultivating innovation solely within the company. This narrow mindset excludes the great minds that exist outside of your organization. To avoid this error, take advantage of open innovation.
Open innovation is a process that allows companies to find solutions to their most difficult problems by getting input from outside the organization. It has led to incredible breakthroughs like NASA’s space toilets, improved voter turnout, and even Starbucks’s pumpkin spice latte.
Leverage the innovative talent that exists outside of your organization by partnering with HeroX to find solutions for your most complex problems. Our easy-to-use platform will give you the results you’re looking for. Get started today.