5 Imperatives For Workplace Innovation

InnovationCompetition, caused by technology and globalization, means that someone somewhere is grinding away to make a product or create a service just like yours. The main difference is that it will be less expensive, better looking, and faster. So what can you do to remain one step ahead?

The 2014 Fast Company Magazine Report, The World’s Most Innovative Companies, listed, Google, Airbnb, Nike, Twitter, Apple, among others as quite profitable and are arguably number one in their category.

So the question for us is how do we harness innovation and make our companies more innovative?  Not surprisingly, according to Gallup, “engaged employees are more likely to be a company’s best source of new ideas.”

Some think that creativity is an inborn trait, but without an environment that is conducive to creativity your organization will find it more difficult to innovative.  Team leaders make a difference by fostering a culture where teams feel safe to challenge existing practice and voice new ideas.

Here are some thoughts on how to make your work environment more engaging and available to creative thought.

1. Reward Creativity
In addition to everything else that your team is responsible for, thinking creatively or “outside the box” requires energy and brainpower. Ensure that there is a reward associated with the creative idea. Working for a purpose can be just as powerful, if not more rewarding, as a monetary incentive.
2. Execute Creativity
Rewarding creativity can be motivating or de-motivating if none of the creative ideas are ever implemented. What’s the point if a great idea isn’t brought to fruition, or at least has gone through the process? People will begin to think it’s a waste of time. So if it’s an improvement to an existing process, give it a try. If it’s an enhancement to a product, scope it out and test it. Provide feedback when an idea isn’t used so the contributor understands they are not being dismissed.
3. Maintain Records
Keep records of past innovations that have been implemented. Accurate records of past success and failures are excellent benchmarks and another way to help support and promote the newer ideas.
4. Support Creativity
Being creative can make a team member vulnerable place if the work environment doesn’t truly exhibit a positive atmosphere and outwardly supports creativity and risk-taking. Fear of repercussions for mistakes can be crushing. Creating a more innovative culture, takes time and requires that team leaders become more open-minded and less judgmental.

Here are some things you can do to help:
– Organize brainstorm sessions, and make them safe.
– Set up task forces, where teams are cross departmental and diverse.
– Give your team regular opportunities to bounce ideas off each other.
– Set up company lunch-and-learns where your team can share skills, talents, etc. they’ll likely learn something new about each other, potentially forming new relationships.

5. Establish Creative Time
If at all possible; give your team time to work on a personal creative project, to help grow curiosity and innovation. Google has reaped incredible innovation from its “20 percent time” initiative, which has contributed to the development of Gmail. Other well-known companies have followed similar suit, including LinkedIn and Facebook.

Innovation is like evolution. If you fail to adapt you go extinct. If an organization keeps offering the same product or service, a competitor can easily surpass with a less expensive, better looking, and faster product. Creativity helps fuel innovation and can give your organization a competitive advantage. More creative work environments harbor more engaged associates. Don’t doom your organization compete in commodity purgatory.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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Posted in Business Process Improvement, Change Management, Leadership

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