9 ways to foster innovation
Innovation is not just a trendy buzzword. Most of all, it is a critical component of a company’s strategy for getting ahead in an increasingly competitive business environment. Here’s how to encourage innovation in your own organization.
1. Place innovation centre stage
Make innovation part of your organization’s genetic blueprint and culture.
It goes without saying that senior executives must keep an open mind if innovation is to flourish in the company and engage the whole workforce.
To help this happen, create an environment in which change is embraced and where ideas are openly shared and tested.
A wide variety of initiatives, from the suggestions box to a dedicated incubator team, can provide a springboard for creativity.
2. Encourage intrapreneurship
Give full reign to employees with an intrapreneurial outlook, i.e., people who demonstrate the mindset of entrepreneurs chasing new ideas but who don’t want to start up their own business.
When you invite them to share their ideas for new projects with your organization’s decision-makers and give them your support and help in putting their suggestions into practice, you provide the perfect ground for cultivating innovation. What is more, you break the cycle of complacency and inertia.
Employee initiative often rubs off on colleagues and acts as a catalyst to inspire the whole team.
3. Breaking down boundaries
There is no better strategy for getting your staff to think outside the box than by giving them jobs or projects that are completely different from their everyday tasks.
Breaking the routine provides the opportunity to discover something different, experiment and take employees out of their comfort zone, allowing them to develop other creative skills.
4. Reward experimentation… and even failure
Managers who encourage innovation across all company strata must accept to give employees the time to experiment and break new ground.
Sometimes new projects prove successful and sometimes not so much, but even the setbacks can serve as a lesson and allow everyone to grow.
Don’t stand in the way of this springboard of creativity out of a fear of failure. Dive in and embrace the good and the bad sides of innovation!
5. Document your initiatives
Innovation is part of the ongoing learning process.
Make notes of the results of each innovative project. Recording them is essential for improving and honing the innovation strategy.
Showcase your successes to gain credibility in the company.
6. Your customers are the impetus for innovation
To inspire creativity and drive innovation, talk to the people who matter most for your company: your customers.
Get to know them really well. Who are they? What do they want? What do they need?
Engage your customers from the outset when pioneering an innovative idea. The earlier in the process you get their feedback, the easier it will be to adjust your focus and assess whether you’re on the right track.
7. The right tools
Your employees must have access to the best possible resources if they are to develop solutions that set your organization in a class of its own.
Give them what they need to be as effective as possible. Step in with answers to problems that look like they might undermine productivity.
Listen to them and trust their judgment.
8. Treat innovation as an ongoing process
A creative initiative is not a one-off experiment. To develop products and services that set your organization apart requires a strategic and coherent vision of innovation.
In an article published in the Harvard Business Review, Professor Gary Hamel concluded that successful innovation does not rely on actions and tactics, but rather on the way in which these methods mesh with each other to accelerate innovation.
Organizations need to arm themselves with a foolproof method for seizing business opportunities as soon as they appear.
9. Building partnerships
Innovation often spawns business partnerships that would have been unimaginable a few years ago.
It is important to keep an open mind and show humility, since partnerships with players such as fintech and insurtech companies are often the culmination of innovative projects you never could have accomplished alone.