If there was such a thing as a “formula to Success” it would be filled with tips on how to facilitate a creative ecosystem that allows truly innovative ideas to grow, and blossom into life-changing realities.
Not everybody is an innovator
While it is true that everybody has imagination and can potentially create a solution no-one else can come up with, we can’t expect brilliant new ideas from all our employees. Demanding innovation is not the way to achieve it. It should come from a more organic situation in which the spark will appear on its own.
Go where the demand is
The most important tip we can offer those who want to foster innovation in their companies is to allow upward communication to exist at all times. Why is it so important? Simply, those who deal with a problem (or several) on a daily basis are more likely to find a solution - and sometimes it’s a matter of survival.
In other words: the people who handle the machinery every day are more likely to resolve a flaw than the engineers who designed it. Not because operators are smarter, but because the gap is more evident to them than the designers. How do we get the everyday experience to the decision-makers? We need to allow direct channels of upward communication to inform decision-makers on what can be improved.
An important tip is to avoid the middle-man. Don’t filter communication through supervisors. Most of the times a simple mailbox for suggestions (anonymous or not) is enough to encourage participation.
The Superman factor
Have you ever noticed Superman is not afraid of anything? Well, that’s because virtually nothing can hurt him. In other words, nothing can go wrong. That’s exactly what an innovation-friendly environment should offer those about to innovate. According to a recent Forbes article by Scott Edinger, most of the leaders of innovative groups focus on results more than procedures. They do not micromanage, nor do they abdicate. Rather, they paint a picture of the future and hold their teams accountable for how to get there. That’s what we mean by the Superman factor: to avoid micromanaging small decisions that can make a big difference. If you provide your team with a deadline or a goal but don’t instruct them how to achieve it, it will leave them room to improvise and create new ways to get there rather than following the same paths everyone else is following.
Stick with it. If you are to implement the Superman Factor, then you have to respect decisions made by others, and make an effort not to interfere.
There are no mistakes
Another golden rule of innovators. No creativity is ever misplaced, or lost. There’s a very famous quote by Thomas Edison that goes: “I have not failed 1000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways NOT to make a light bulb.” And he was right; there are a lot of examples to prove that mistakes can end up being amazing discoveries. The important thing is how to communicate failure to those who attempted innovation. Not all of us have the self-esteem Mr. Edison had. If you don’t allow your people to take risks and experience failure, they will never push themselves to the place where they can create something new. Therefore, you should communicate this rule before starting the process, to encourage innovators not to be afraid. Another remarkable businessman, Thomas Watson (IBM), who offered leadership in the tough world of computers, said: “The fastest way to succeed is to double your failure rate.”
Be assertive in communicating this golden rule, and set a clear objective. Some companies write signs to post on walls with encouraging quotes like the ones above.
The creative collective
There’s a big difference between the lone innovator and the innovation team. A company that believes in the path of continuous improvement should encourage both approaches. Why? Very simply, more minds can come up with more ideas to resolve an issue. Moreover, an idea that was put forward by a lone innovator can take on an epic proportion when a group of people works on it. There are some rules to follow to maximize creativity, and not rivalry. We are going to take a look at some of them. For a more in-depth approach, you can refer to this article.
Calibrations: This is a simple, yet great way to have everyone on the same page about what is going on. It is also a good way to collect information on the 'why'?
Focus Groups: This is a potent tool when it comes to resolving existing issues with new methods. Just get all the people involved and have them work together in finding a solution.
Motivating leadership: A vital part of the solution will be the leader who doesn’t act like a boss, and inspires others to find the solution instead of doing it all himself. The role this person takes is definitive to the situation.
All steps considered: For a solution to be permanent and efficient, all elements in the chain should actively participate in finding and implement it.
Safe environment: Allow a judgment-free atmosphere to permit everybody to think and speak without pressure. Goal-oriented discussions should not include hierarchy distinctions.
Another excellent way to break a negative cycle is to hire a freelancer to do some of the work, knowing nothing at all about the overall desired result. This might end up being a solution nobody else thought about. Don’t underestimate the power of a fresh, outside point of view.
Finally, the most important way to motivate an employee to take a risk is to have an incentive for doing it. There are lots of ways of rewarding an innovative thought within a company environment; we shall review some tips right here. For a more in-depth take on it, feel free to check these great ideas.
Internal propaganda: This might be a no-brainer, but most companies spare this expense. The signs hanging from the walls at a workplace are something to take very seriously. If you promote innovation among employees and communicate the particular reward system, they are more likely to let their imagination loose.
Praise the innovators: We’re not talking a McDonald’s “employee of the month” sign. We’re talking about actually praising those who have found a better or simpler way for their co-workers to complete their tasks. Always communicate achievements.
You can’t install an innovative culture into a company environment overnight. It’s a process that will take time and money to accomplish. Once it’s implemented and working properly, you can expect the best ROI there is. Let’s summarize some of the most important aspects:
An innovative culture is the responsibility of management. Your employees have to be inspired and driven towards inventing new solutions.
Not everyone is an innovator. You shouldn’t push all your staff the same way; there will be some with a more creative mind, and some with a more executing mind. Together they work marvelously well, but you have to identify each.
A working Human Resources department is the ultimate achievement. Focus on your HR, and you’ll see a significant transformation. Motivated employees make the difference, always.
Start by yourself. Empower those who foster innovation, don’t be afraid to change and always trust your employees by delegating. Be a motivational leader.
Are there any techniques you have seen or used in the past that made a world of difference to you? Please leave us your feedback and help us help others!