There are very few industries existing within the professional world that can stagnate. For most corporations, there is a strong need for constant change. This change can come about whether we want it or not. It is vitally important that you can focus on how your are going to create culture within your company; a culture where innovation is the key ingredient and everyone is capable of coming up with new ideas.
Creating a company culture built around innovation provides you the opportunity to allow this type of system to flow naturally. Instead of trying to force innovation, you can rely on allowing it to happen normally, quickly and efficiently. Allowing innovation to be a thing everyone does and focuses on can be one of the strongest choices your company makes.
Of course, becoming innovative as a company is easier said than done. Being innovative is not just slapping a buzzword onto your organization and hoping for the best. It is finding ways to poke and prod your employees forward towards something greater.
The key to creating an innovative culture is putting in place some systems and requirements
Assign Everyone One Task Outside their Functional Area
The first step to becoming more innovative is stretching your personal reaches. You will find that over time, we all become a little stagnant. If day after day, you are doing the same thing time and time again, you are always confined to this role. The human mind likes to be wrapped into patterns and after too long, it is easy to enter into self-conforming systems. Whether we realize it or not, we build more and more habits about the work we are doing and are likely to become stuck in the same patterns.
The best way to get away from these habits is to change how you work. Challenge your employees. Require them to do something new. Assigning employees new tasks does not need to be complex, and the tasks you assign do not need to be daunting. It can be as simple as sitting in on other team meetings or trying a new software.
By pushing employees out of their functional areas, it can create a positive environment where new relationships are being formed. Employees are interacting more with other departments than normal. People are having new conversations.
The path of becoming innovative starts by simply taking the first step into a new functional area where others are not located.
Provide Rewards Encouraging Innovation
People love incentives. From small things to big things. Where I am staunchly against rewarding people for doing their jobs, for many of your employees, innovation has not likely been a part of their role. Additionally, how can you quantify what is successful in these areas?
One key to cultivating innovation is rewarding people for creating and generating new ideas. Think of it like psychology. We as people are more likely to carry out a behavior when we are rewarded instead of punished. Reward those who come up with innovative sustainable ideas.
This is the second key: Make sure the innovation is enduring. Don’t just reward people for coming up with ideas.
Reward people for ideas that improve company performance or generate revenue.
Normalize Questioning & Risk Taking
Challenge leads to growth. If you stay in the same place constantly, your team is going to fail. Instead, challenge each other and make it okay for people to challenge the overall company feel.
Any time major actions are being carried out, allow employees the chance to ask questions like “why is this the best decision?” and “how could we do this better?”. By providing an open forum for healthily challenging work and one another, you are creating an environment where everyone grows together. You also create space where people realize their voices are being heard.
Another important piece is figuring out how to allow risk taking. Employees are never going to be innovative if they cannot take risks. Build risk taking into your culture just like asking questions. There are right ways and wrong ways to take risks, just like questions. Instead of throwing three sheets to the wind and allowing anything to happen, have conversations on what risk taking looks like and how your teams can incorporate successful risks into their workflow.
This leads to the next point.
Build Feedback Loops
Not all risks are good. Taking a risk without an end goal in mind is as harmful as never taking risks in the first place. Instead of just taking risks for the sake of taking risks, build a piece of your culture where taking risks is built around ideas of end goals. For every risk taken there should be a point:
- Increase profits
- Increase moral
- Decrease cost
- Attract new clients
Instead of just allowing risk for the sake of risk, always guarantee that risk has a goal. You should be able to quantify what success looks like when taking risk. Be intentional in knowing, if we achieve our goals, what do the end results look like?
Even if you do not achieve your goals, what are the end results? No matter what, make sure you are challenging the status quo, but first fully determine what needs to be challenged, and second, what the end results of this challenge look like.
Find Lean Communication
The last part of an innovative culture is the ability to move quickly. You want to think out your innovation before carrying it out, but in thinking it out, you also want to ensure you have the ability to act without having to pause constantly.
Pausing too much can cause hesitation and create an environment where your employees are not innovative because the cost of time associated is too much. Instead of stifling your teams with more rules, set in place ways that innovation can take place in a lean manner. This means establishing the right channels for sharing and disseminating information.
Additionally, you want to make sure your team knows who can make decisions on innovation. Set up the proper channels so that new ideas can be quickly shared, discussed, and a solution can emerge.
When harnessed properly, innovation can be a powerful tool that makes your company leap ahead of the competition. It is very similar to bridling and taming a wild stallion. You know it is the best horse there is, but it takes time to get the beast to follow commands.
Never just let the beast run wild. Always be sure to focus on taming your animal and providing the best process possible. By creating the successful process at the front end of innovation, it creates a system.
This system can be tapped and explored to find the proper response to success.
Becoming innovative takes time, but once found, innovation is worth the cost.