In the dynamic, global economy of today, where tastes and preferences of people constantly change, there hardly is an industry not disrupted by novel solutions all the time. Thus, being innovative is the only way to stay ahead in the game.
Despite that, I find that many companies ignore the need to innovate because it’s somehow become a given that innovation is about big game changing technologies and that it is reserved for large corporations.
But that’s wrong. You don’t need radical innovations to stay relevant. Small incremental innovations that make your customers’ lives easier can also go a long way. Such innovations could be, for example, adding in an extra blade to a razor as Gillette did, or introducing a Cherry Coke if you are Coca Cola, or introducing same-day-delivery as in the case of Sainsbury’s.
Regardless of what industry you are in, innovation is critical not only to your company’s growth but also to its survival. So if you want to encourage innovation within your organisation here’s what you could do:
Make innovation a thing
In many organisations, and particularly in SMEs and non-tech companies that ordinarily don’t have the mechanisms or tradition of continuous innovation, people don’t even think about it.
This being said, your first job if you want to encourage innovation, is to make innovation present and visible. This could be as simple as putting up a board in your office where everybody can write down their ideas. Encourage managers to do it and do it yourself too. Seeing management and other colleagues doing it sends a clear message to people. At meetings, talk about innovation and its importance and invite people to be creative and share their ideas and insights. Also, reward ideas that have been implemented and are successful. This will encourage people to contribute more. And don’t forget recognition. If an idea, regardless of how small, has improved your business and your bottom line in any way, don’t forget to say thank you. There’s a number of ways to do so.
Create an outlet for it
Having an ideas board on the wall is a nice informal way to demonstrate that innovation is valued at your company. It can be used more as a reminder that innovation is important.
However, if you take innovation seriously, you need to create the outlet and mechanisms for your people to bring ideas to the attention of management. If your company is smaller sending in an email would be sufficient. Naturally, it’s a bit more complex in larger organisations. Google for example has a ticketing system to file issues that are looked into as a source of ideas for improvement and innovation. Other organisations have online platforms where employees can submit ideas easily. Or you could make it old-fashioned and have a physical post box in each department where employees can drop in a one-page description of their idea.
Make sure all ideas are reviewed and taken into consideration.
Create the space for it
When I say the space I mean literally and figuratively. Oftentimes people may have good ideas but they feel like spending time on looking into them is not “real work” or part of their job. So make it clear that working on such ideas is alright.
Allocate a portion of their time that they can use to work on what interests them. Encourage them to get together with other people passionate about the same idea and work on it as a team. Create a space in your office where people can sit down and talk about ideas and innovation. Larger organisations such as Google offer café spaces for this purpose. If you can’t afford this maybe you could just allocate a chill lounge space for people to relax and get creative.
Figuratively speaking about space, what I mean is – create a culture that fosters innovation. That is a culture where making a mistake is alright. Being innovative requires taking risks and oftentimes failing. And people are afraid of failing. It’s the fear of failure that normally prevents us from trying new things. So encourage mistakes and failure. Instead of looking at them as something negative, look at them as a learning opportunity. As Nelson Mandela famously said:
I never lose, I either win or learn.
Instill that kind of attitude in your organisation, you will discover that it is very rewarding.
Take ideas to heart
The list of successful multi-million dollar companies started by frustrated employees whose ideas were not heard or taken seriously is quite long.
So listen to your people’s ideas and really consider them. Clearly you couldn’t realise each and every idea but at least give them a chance. What you could do is create a screening process where for an idea to be considered by management it would first need to gather a certain amount of votes within the department. Each successful idea then could be further voted on a higher level at management meetings. However, also ensure that there is a way for ideas to happen even if they are not popular enough among employees. Be accessible, let employees convinced in the reasoning behind their ideas talk to you and explain why they are certain their idea should be implemented. Then it’s a judgement call on your end but at least employees know they can get to you.
Innovation is key and not just in the tech industry. A study on Innovation by Accenture confirms that innovation is on the rise in various sectors. Also, over 90% of the executives surveyed believe that the long-term success of their organisation’s strategy depends on their ability to develop new ideas.
If you want to know more about fostering innovation within your organisation and other business growth strategies, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. As a marketing expert and business consultant, I have many years of experience in helping companies from various industries grow and thrive. You can get in touch with me, Paul Davis, here.