How to Encourage Innovation in Your Team
Innovation means constant improvement.
Why should companies care about encouraging innovation in their people?
Innovation allows a company to differentiate themselves from the competition, not just in improving their products, services and processes, but also in improving its people. An innovation-driven organisation empowers employees to get creative, and brings to light the best talent.
So how can you implement this at the workplace?
Incorporate a non-hierarchical management approach. Innovation is often brought about by cross-pollination between teams and departments, and from elaborating on ideas and finding solutions to problems together. If staff only think about innovation when specifically asked to do so, this won’t maximise their potential. Thus, it is necessary to encourage proactivity and to build the habit of problem-solving.
How can you start implementing this? Encourage them to solve problems before escalating them. A common issue leaders face is when a team member escalates a problem without thinking for themselves first. This can waste your time and deprives them of the opportunity to independently solve the problem. Innovation shouldn’t just be a one-off, occasional exercise – it should be part of a daily routine.
Champion innovation in everyone. Innovation should not be limited to management. It is a skill that should be developed by all members in an organisation, from top to bottom. Each member of a team has a unique take on a given topic and having a platform where one can share thoughts and ideas can create momentum for creative process and innovative thinking.
Encourage open communication. Creating a space where they can express their ideas also helps boost employee morale and motivates them to keep performing well if they can see that their managers are not only encouraging ideas, but also actively listening and possibly implementing their suggestions. In his book, “Hell Yeah Or No,” Derek Sivers points out that what could be obvious to you, may sound amazing to others. Thus, encourage open communication in your team – it may lead to some groundbreaking ideas.
Teach your employees to not fear failure, because it is an opportunity to learn and grow. If your team is operating in an environment that looks down upon and penalises small mistakes, this subsequently discourages them from thinking innovatively from fear of compromising their work performance and disappointing their bosses and team mates. Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey asserted that, “If we’re not making mistakes, we’re not trying hard enough.” Thus, teach them that failure is inevitable, and to make their learning process productive by identifying what went wrong, how they can improve, and implementing these improvements when a similar situation arises.
Reward innovators. While the innovation process in itself is rewarding, make sure that you recognize your team’s efforts. This will strengthen employee satisfaction and help maintain the innovative culture.
It is important to note that the drive for innovation may not be a linear path to success. Remember that all big innovations are not formed overnight but rather, start with a single idea followed by strategic steps and commitment to the end goal.
Fournier, A., 2021. 16 (EFFECTIVE) Ways to Encourage Innovation in the Workplace. [online] Braineet. Available at: <https://www.braineet.com/blog/encouraging-workplace-innovation/>
Makarov, I., 2021. 9 Ways Your Company Can Encourage Innovation. [online] Entrepreneur. Available at: <https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/318584>