“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow” – William Pollard
Innovation is more important than ever. The world is changing quickly and organisations need to be on the cutting-edge of change or risk being left behind.
However, many leaders lack the time to innovate themselves, so it falls on their team members to step up and do the work. But you can’t just tell your team “go innovate”, you need to create the right environment, you need to nurture and encourage the innovation. In this blog post, I’m sharing 14 ways you can do that.
1) Encourage diversity and creativity at all stages of an innovation process
Encourage employees at every level of your company, from management down, to think creatively; this will ensure that everyone’s ideas are considered before dismissing them outright– in our fast-paced world with change coming so quickly, we need fresh ideas to keep up with the demand.
According to the research by the Association for Psychological Science, creative people are more likely to generate new ideas when they have diverse perspectives and that’s what we need in order to solve the tough problems. So it’s important to promote a diverse team, with different backgrounds and experiences, in order to provide those creative perspectives that will drive innovation.
2) Train for creativity
“Creativity is a skill which must be nurtured and supported, not left to chance.“
– Dr. Arthur F. Costa
Many people think creativity is the realm of artists, writers and filmmakers — but it’s not. Everyone can be creative in their own way.
Creativity is a skill that you can train for. By incorporating creativity into your training, you can give employees the tools and skills to generate ideas on their own — this will make them feel more comfortable with the idea of innovation and help them feel confident enough in their own creativity.
It doesn’t take a lot — you can start by introducing creativity into existing training programs by adding creative exercises, encouraging employees to brainstorm and other ways of doing so.
Creativity can make workers feel more valued and interested in their work. It will also help them to build new skills that they can use outside of the workplace too — so it’s a win-win all round.
3) Prioritise areas of development
Have open conversations about where innovation should be focused in the business. Invite your team to brainstorm and encourage your team members to take the lead. Consider factors like emerging technologies, what customers are asking for, global/market trends (e.g., remote working) and new business models. You can also have conversations with your team members about their areas of expertise. Ask them how they think the organisation can innovate in these areas.
(Helpful Tip: Google Trends help you find emerging trends)
2) Encourage individual playtime
“Playtime is not just for children. Adults also need it.” – Janet Sternberg
It’s important to take a strategic approach towards innovation. However, when all innovation is structured, it can smother individual creativity. What’s the solution? Build time into your schedule for inidividual brainstorming and playtime. This will encourage individual creativity whilst also ensuring that you’re keeping up with the latest trends in innovation.
If you are a team member, remember to speak up when it comes to suggesting new ideas or initiatives — just because an idea isn’t on the list of priorities doesn’t mean it won’t be of value to the organisation.
If you are a leader, encourage your team members to come up with ideas and initiatives that they believe will impact the business — even if these aren’t in line with your priorities right now.
3) Be open to failure
Too often, companies are risk-averse and focus on avoiding mistakes rather than trying new things. That’s not a recipe for innovation. That’s a recipe for stagnation. If you’re worried about your team members making mistakes, consider setting up an Innovation Sandbox. The sandbox helps teams focus on innovation while learning from the inevitable failures and iterating quickly as they go forward.
4) Encourage risk taking
“You’ve got to go out on a limb sometimes because that’s where the fruit is.“
Innovation often involves a lot of trial and error, so encourage your team to try new things that may not work out at first but will potentially produce something exciting in the future. Encourage them to push themselves outside their comfort zones by taking risks, asking new questions and coming up with fresh ideas.
5) Mix team and budgets up
Provide resources for cross-functional teams: Cross-functional teams work collaboratively to solve problems. Make sure these teams have the resources they need, like working space and tools.
Allocate budgets from different departments: Consider how your budget can be used for innovation rather than just day-to-day operations
6) Go fast. Go lean.
Make it as easy and inexpensive to implement an idea as possible — ideas are one thing, but implementing them is something else entirely.
One way to do this is by adopting the lean approach, whereby a small team is set-up to quickly evaluate an idea in order to judge its feasibility and whether it’s worth investing more time into.
(Helpful Tip: Read “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries)
7) Provide a platform for communication
Provide a platform for your team members to share their ideas with each other, so they can get feedback on what’s been done before and how it could be improved or modified; the more people who are involved in the process, the more likely it is that someone will have a solution. Make sure you communicate clear instructions to your team members about where and how they can share their ideas — both on-site or online.
Helpful Tip: Encourage people to share their ideas by making it easy for them. For example, posting an idea on a project management board, or using a tool like Trello.
8) Cheer the minor victories
Celebrate and reward progress, not just success — especially in our fast-paced world, it’s common for people to get discouraged if they’re met with a lot of roadblocks or obstacles. When we celebrate the smaller wins, we help team member see they are making progress, and keep them motivated to stick with it.
9) Create and adapt
Encourage your team members to think creatively about how they can implement their ideas; for example, they might need to figure out how their idea can be applied in different areas of the business or with other teams.
The more creative they are, the more likely it is that they’ll come up with a solution or tweak to their original idea that would make it work better.
For example, if your team develops a new website chatbot, could this be used to help team members book holidays and customers order new products?
10) Involve everyone in implementing change
Don’t just have one or two people spearhead innovation efforts. Involve everyone in the process and give them opportunities to make a difference. This will ensure that change is embraced by all employees, if not spread through word-of-mouth.
11) Reward innovation with recognition, not just money
Innovation should be recognised as a form of performance in itself-not just with financial rewards. Offer larger bonuses for the most innovative ideas or create some other kind of reward system that recognises creativity. Consider rewarding early adopters for their efforts as well, being the first one to come up with a new idea or implementation.
12) Make it fun!
Many people feel that innovation is a scary word, or something they’re not sure how to start doing because there are so many ways to approach the subject. One way to ease this fear and help encourage your team members is by making things more enjoyable.
(Helpful Tip: Make things interactive. Consider having your team members brainstorm ideas in groups, or going for a walk and talking to each other about what they could do differently.)
13) Create and share success stories
When someone gets an innovative solution to work, make sure they know that it’s worth all the hard work — share their story and others on your website so everyone can see how innovation is helping grow the business. After all, don’t you want the world to know what a progressive and forward-thinking company you are?
14) Champion the idea
Finally, every idea needs a champion who will speak up for it and work to make sure others understand its potential. If you are not in charge of your team or project, whether as an individual contributor or a team lead, it’s your responsibility to advocate for what you believe in — and make sure that the right people know about it.
“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.“
Innovation is the only way to ensure that your company’s future remains bright. Sure, sometimes our team’s ideas will end in failure, but without being brave enough to try, we can’t hope to achieve success or keep our companies relevant.
Doing ‘it’, requires effort from every team member and this can be difficult in a world where everything seems to move so fast. But with these fourteen easy ways for encouraging innovation, you’ll find it much easier than ever before.
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