Lots of companies say they want to be innovative, but too many of them aren’t backing it up with the right behaviors.
Telling the world you’re an innovative organization doesn’t make it so. And just because you may hire creative people, come up with clever ads, or let your team wear flip-fops doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing it right.
Breeding innovation takes more than just lip service. It takes commitment, an open mind, and a decent amount of risk tolerance. To be successful, you need to create an environment that encourages new ideas, promotes calculated risk taking and rewards people who try new things. Even if they don’t work as planned.
Looking to foster innovation at your organization? Here are four keys to make it happen.
1. Make space for it
When employees feel crushed by deadlines and projects, innovation has no space to occur.
Make sure your team isn’t so overloaded with tasks that they literally don’t have time to think. Ask about workload issues in your one-on-one meetings and make creativity part of your company culture. Put fun stuff like games, books and colored pencils in your break room and switch them up regularly. Encourage daily breaks and walkabouts so staff can step away from their desks and into a new frame of mind.
2. Validate it
Many people assume innovation is about big thoughts and bold strategies, but sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference. Recognizing innovative behavior makes your employees feel good. Plus, it helps clarify what innovation looks like in your organization.
Any time you avoid the dreaded “But we’ve always done it that way!” mentality, you’re innovating. Did someone come up with a sleek new spreadsheet, process or template? Call them out for it. Not only will the individual feel valued, everyone will get to see a real example of innovation in action— and an organizational appreciation for it.
3. Don’t be afraid of it
Fear of failure can be crippling for company creativity. This is where innovation goes to die.
Truly innovative companies must be comfortable taking risks. If management balks at every new idea suggested, employees will quickly get the message that it’s not worth the effort to pitch anything new. Creating a culture of innovation requires all levels of leadership to be very clear about their willingness to take new ideas and run with them. Nurture creative thinking by welcoming it, recognizing it, and most importantly, following through on it.
4. Keep it going
Innovation is like science: a constant process of trial and error that often leads to incredible discoveries and advances.
When it pays off, celebrate! When things don’t go as planned, don’t let that stop you in your tracks. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn from your mistakes. Fear didn’t start your company, so don’t let it drive your decisions. Share valuable lessons with your team, and then move on to the next great idea.
Because that’s what really innovative companies do.
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Photo by alphaspirit