There are innumerable benefits of encouraging innovation in business. It enhances efficiency in operations, helps attracting new customers and identifying new business opportunities, improves customer satisfaction and loyalty, and the list goes on. With new technologies and inventions emerging every now and then all around us, every organization needs to nurture innovative thinking to maintain its competitive edge, grow, and prosper. In fact, many organizations these days hire chief innovation officers and/or embrace new technologies for implementing the innovation process. However, cultivating or encouraging innovative thinking in the workplace isn’t an overnight or easy process. A survey conducted by Robert Half had revealed that 35 percent of chief financial officers are of the opinion that the greatest roadblock to organizational breakthroughs is the lack of innovative ideas. Of course, it’s challenging to set up a culture where your employees think creatively. Moreover, attempting to change the workplace dynamics is often met by strong resistance due to the lack of adequate flexibility and resilience among people and procedures. However, the good news is that, it is doable with a little effort and by following these 8 steps.
- Encourage Out of the Box Thinking
Instead of sticking to the usual process of problem solving, encourage your employees to churn out new ideas. Cognitive diversity is essential in business. Organize activities to encourage innovation like brainstorming sessions to find out different options and ways of approaching a problem. As a leader, be open to new techniques that complete tasks in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
- Promote and Appreciate Courage
Employees often like to play safe and refrain from taking the risk of trying out new ideas. For leaders, it’s important to encourage employees to have the courage of communicating and testing innovative ideas without the fear of failing or any backlashes for the same. Help your employees learn how to make informed decisions and how to handle things if the results aren’t what they expected. The courage of trying out new ideas should overshadow the fear of making a mistake.
- Welcome Opinions and Questions
Many employees have opinions and questions regarding the business processes, which they do not always get the opportunity to express and which can lead to innovative solutions. One of the important innovative workplace practices is encouraging the employees to voice their opinions. Welcome their ideas on how to be innovative in business to improve products, services and procedures. When employees feel that their opinions are valued, they are even more motivated to think in an innovative way.
- Reward Innovative Thinking
When innovative ideas are implemented in the organization, it’s important to recognize and reward the efforts of the employees behind those ideas. A recognition through company newsletters or meetings or a small incentive can go a long way in inspiring employees to indulge in innovative thinking. Organizing contests for new ideas and rewarding the examples of innovation
in the workplace is also another effective technique. Making employees feel recognized and valued is important if you want them to put extra efforts for the company.
- Consider Company Culture Before Hiring
Before pondering on how to get innovative ideas from employees, make sure you recruit people that indulge in innovative thinking. Hiring people who always agree with you, would not serve the purpose. Recruit people that can offer you different perspectives, have a vision, are passionate about their work, and can collaborate well with others to achieve the goals.
- Encourage Diversity
A team having members with different backgrounds and capabilities can bring a lot to the table. Encouraging diversity in the team and respecting each member’s individuality is crucial for developing a high-functioning team that presents new ideas, approaches and solutions to improve the products and services.
- Create an Open Work Culture
Create a culture where each individual is treated as an important entity, irrespective of the job title or hierarchy. An intern might come up with a great solution and it’s essential to value their contribution. Also, let the work environment be flexible and relaxed so the employees feel comfortable and are motivated enough to give their best. Embrace the natural rhythm of your employees and let go of the traditional patterns, be it working hours or office spaces. Make sure your employee enjoy working in your company and see how the creativity flows.
- Prevent Burnout
Encourage your employees to have a work-life balance and develop appropriate policies for the same. Remember, workaholics do not necessarily produce high quality work and an overworked employee is less likely to bring anything new to the table. It’s important to ensure that your employees are fresh, energetic and focused. A constantly working mind often runs out of ideas. Encourage them to take time/day-offs so they can resume their work with a fresh mind and make innovative contributions to your company.
Encouraging innovation is crucial to stay ahead of the competition but the process might be slow and challenging. Even if you start today, you may not see a major change the next week. Changing a work culture requires time, and noticing and embracing the small positive changes is important. Being consistent is the key. If you give your employees ample support, guidance and time to unleash their creativity in the workplace, your company will certainly experience the desired changes.