Innovation doesn't happen on its own. If you truly want to innovate throughout your company, you must create a culture that encourages cooperation, rewards creativity, and fosters a positive working style that creates more opportunities for every individual.
Culture is one of the 7 Immutable Laws of Innovation and the subject of my next several posts. To start, let’s take an in-depth look at what makes up an “innovation culture” and why it’s so important to build one within your own organization.
People who believe their ideas don't matter aren't willing to step forward and offer those ideas to their company. They don't have a personal stake in the outcome, and so they might fail to contribute new ideas at all. People need to know that they matter, their ideas matter, and that their contributions will be a positive addition to the company as a whole. Creating a sense of ownership for each employee is a process that impacts the overall attitude of each and every person at your company.
- Give them the ability to solve issues on their own. Many employees are handicapped by the feeling that they're unable to make decisions without running them by someone else first. When you offer them the authority to implement changes on their own or as part of a team, however, you create a situation in which every employee is able to more fully embrace their potential and share their ideas.
- Goals shouldn’t just be statements of purpose; they should also be commonly agreed-upon missions that the entire team discusses before any steps are taken to accomplish them. The team should feel a sense of ownership for those goals, rather than thinking they’ve been given an outside assignment or need to live up to someone else’s expectations.
- Choose employees carefully. A negative individual inserted into the existing company culture can bring that sense of ownership tumbling to the ground.
Ideas are a critical part of the innovation culture. In fact, innovation cannot thrive without creative problem-solving. In a true innovation culture, every employee's idea is valued and given equal weight. Even the ideas that sound “bad” at first are considered carefully before they're discarded. In this type of culture, no one is reprimanded or ignored when they offer a potential problem-solving suggestion. Instead, they're applauded for their contribution and offered the opportunity to work with the concept, in order to see if it can turn into something larger.
Encouraging ideas throughout the company as a whole is one of the best ways to leverage the existing talent within your organization. In a true innovation culture, employees in all positions are willing to offer their talents and skills to the company, because they know that their ideas will be valued and that the concept will be implemented if it works. Without this comfort between team members, employees will keep silent, letting innovation slip straight through their fingers.
Collaborative innovation is one of the most critical parts of your innovation culture. You need to open the doors for positive communication throughout the company as a whole. Here are some great ideas for opening up communication within your company.
- Rewarding risk-taking, and accepting that risks won’t always be profitable right away, is a game-changer for many companies. No true innovation can occur without risk, and employees are encouraged to embrace it.
- Execution is critical. When ideas are simply discussed, nothing changes. Make sure you are acting on good ideas that your employees bring to the table.
- Create opportunities for teamwork within different groups. Sometimes, a pair works best with one another. In other cases, it may be more beneficial to have an entire team collaborating to solve a problem. Find out what works best for your company, and provide new opportunities for creative work relationships to flourish.
- Offer varied opportunities for communication throughout the company. Make sharing innovative concepts easy for every employee and meet them where they are, whether they prefer email, verbal communication, or a folder outside the door.
- Create an environment in which creativity is encouraged and every individual knows that their input is valued.
If resources are not appropriately allocated to the task of innovation, all the creativity in the world won't be enough to create the innovation culture you're looking for. Innovation isn't just about the process of having the ideas; it's also about taking those risks and seeing them through. That means that company resources need to be dedicated to the task. These three keywords sum up what you need to keep in mind when allocating resources.
- Availability: Company resources should be available to employees who need them to test ideas and make the most of their creative concepts.
- Focus: Company resources are not unlimited. Therefore, there needs to be focus throughout the organization so that everyone works together to choose the best use for those resources.
- Accountability: A process will be set in place that makes it clear how resources are used. Innovation and risk-taking should be supported, not punished. However, resources should also be used wisely in order to ensure the best outcome.
A true innovation culture creates an environment in which creativity is embraced, risk-taking is encouraged, and innovation thrives throughout the entire company. No member of the company is left out of the process. Advancement is as simple as understanding the next step in the process and being willing to work within it. Every employee is willing to step up to the line because they have accepted ownership within the company.
True innovation doesn't happen overnight. Changing your company culture can be a challenge, but it's well worth the effort you'll put in. If you need help shifting your culture to one that encourages innovation and enables your company to thrive, contact me.