Not every employee is instinctively creative or will take a 360-degree look at a project and bring forth new ideas, but there are practical steps you can take to foster more of both of these qualities as you drive innovation in your company.
Companies can develop cultures of innovation in all areas — from operations to product enhancement, service delivery or development of a new business — by changing how innovation is viewed and recognized. By creating of culture of innovation, teams take time to be curious and ask:
- How can we improve on this?
- How could we would make it easier to use?
- What would the end user rather experience?
- How can we turn suggestions and ideas into realities?
Studies tell us that employees are more engaged with a company when they feel part of the process of making it better. Actions by leadership can either stifle or foster that climate of engagement. For example, do you rally employees to come up with ideas and then get excited about those ideas? I feel certain you want to ignite innovation, but perhaps you are not sure where to start. Here are what I call the 5 Cs of Innovation to get the right culture launched.
By taking an active role in soliciting ideas, communicating to your employees the wins behind ideas and giving credit to those who brought them about, you encourage others to do the same. While not every idea can be implemented immediately, it is important to recognize them anyway and applaud the thinking.
Not every innovation can be realized by the department it ultimately benefits. Sometimes they are just too close to the issue. However, by engaging other areas and forming a collaborative team, the result is often better. Diverse groups of people with varied disciplines and backgrounds can make for a highly productive team of problem solvers, as none come to the group with a preconceived approach, but rather build on the ideas and collaboration of the team.
Creativity doesn’t just reside in the marketing department or research and development, it runs across every company. Over the years, people who have openly said, “I am just not an idea person,” have often been the ones who add significant value with their ideas. Perhaps they look at a problem in a different way and drive innovation to a completely new level. Don’t assume; instead engage those with an interest in being a part of the team, and the rest will come.
If innovation comes in the form of savings or new revenue for the company, companies have been known to share a cash award or some form of compensation with the team that developed it — or have a bonus structure for top ideas that get implemented in the company. Cash gives creators ownership of their innovative ideas. Believe it or not, your employees do appreciate it.
Just because an idea doesn’t get implemented when it is presented doesn’t mean you should dismiss it. Instead, collect all the innovative ideas and have a team revisit them every 6-12 months with the originators to see if they are perhaps now applicable. Then recognize and reward them as well.
Hopefully this gets you thinking about ways to foster innovation in your company. Perhaps you’ll want to put together a team to brainstorm on the 5 Cs and ways to engage your employees. This approach works well with groups outside of business, too.
Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know how your company is embracing innovation, what you discover and stories of how it impacts your company.