Business innovation is the backbone of every successful company and often begins with idea generation. Getting staff to think creatively isn’t always easy though.
One of the greatest roadblocks to organisational breakthroughs is a lack of new, creative ideas.
Here are 6 simple ways to encourage innovation with your team and become an industry leader:
1. Give employees a reason to care
If people aren’t feeling connected to your company, there’s little incentive for employee engagement towards business innovation. Make sure staff are in the loop and ask for their input. Employees who are involved early-on in plans will be motivated to see them through to completion.
Also, give your employees the power to make decisions and take action. People who are trusted to take (safe) risks and initiative just may stumble upon that next great business solution. Be careful about being too critical when the outcome isn’t what you expected. No one wants to be the centre of negative attention, and your employees will hold back on making suggestions if they’re worried about potential consequences.
2. Don’t make staff jump through hoops
You may think it’s easy for employees to present new ideas, but is it really? If managers are constantly behind closed doors and meetings tend to be one-way discussions, the message you are unconsciously giving your staff is that their feedback isn’t welcome.
Keep your office doors open as much as possible to encourage innovation, and ensure your team knows their ideas are always valued. Use your intranet, brainstorming sessions or even an old-fashioned suggestion box to encourage innovation.
3. Rethink internal competitions
Setting up contests for individuals at work can be useful for achieving business goals such as sales targets. However, be cautious about creating too much competition in the work environment.
When employees are aiming for a reward, they may be reluctant to share new ideas that potentially might jeopardise them getting the award or incentive.
4. Calm the naysayers
A key reason why people often hesitate to offer fresh proposals is that they worry what others might say. No one wants to have their ideas shot down immediately or become fodder for jokes. Make sure you’re doing all you can to make your staff feel comfortable when brainstorming. Even if someone makes an unrealistic suggestion, thank the person for thinking creatively.
Allow people to submit their recommendations in writing if they’re not comfortable speaking up. Regularly remind your entire team that you welcome input in any way they prefer to share it with you.
5. Ease up
When people are experiencing burnout at work, their last priority is trying to be creative; they just want to get through what must be done at the moment.
Take the time to promote work-life balance by offering telecommuting or consider bringing in temporary professionals during peak demands to keep everyone fresh and focused.
6. Set the example
Recognise that as a leader, you are the team’s model. Your leadership traits have an impact on the entire team. If you never think creatively with your own work, you can’t really expect your employees to do the opposite. It stands to reason that a relaxed, positive mood is more conducive to innovative thoughts than a tense one. Whenever possible, don’t skip your lunch break, and take a head-clearing walk when you need to recharge.
Finally, take a serious look at the skill sets in your team. When was the last time you supported training and education? To encourage innovation you need to give the right tools, and that includes keeping their knowledge and expertise up-to-date.
Encourage innovation and reap the rewards
Creativity goes hand in hand with innovation. Challenging existing processes, methodologies and workflows and looking at them from different perspectives will help you create a more efficient and successful organisation.
With the right management approach, you can not only help your staff enhance their contributions, but also inspire your team to push the boundaries for the future and make your business the most innovative one in your sector.