Nilufer Erdebil, founder and CEO of Spring2Innovation, a innovation consulting firm, shares 6 steps to foster a culture of innovation in your organization.
The word “innovation” is used all the time but there is a lack of discussion on the topic of how to be more innovative. A lot of becoming more innovative comes down to workplace culture and building the right environment where everyone can contribute to innovation. Here are six easy ways to begin fostering a culture of innovation:
1) Communicate – Let employees know where they can submit their ideas
Communicating this information is an essential part of engaging employees in the innovation process. Oftentimes, managers and executives say they have an open door policy but not everyone feels comfortable just walking in and bringing forward their ideas. To inspire more people to contribute ideas, organizations should encourage a more structured (but creative!) approach. For example, you could host innovation challenges, hold open idea hours or sessions, or have a tool for collecting ideas. The takeaway here is to ensure employees have a way to communicate their ideas. This includes letting employees know what happens with good ideas!
2) Create an Innovation Sandbox – Define what innovation means for your organization!
Employees need to understand what types of ideas the team and the organization think are innovative. Providing a framework outlining the type of ideas that the organization is looking for will not only empower team members, but will allow them to be more creative and push the boundaries of the innovation sandbox. If you just say ‘we want innovation happening’ without providing a framework, the challenge appears ambiguous and unmanageable ensuring people won’t know where to begin. Give your employees a guideline to help them think about where they can contribute to the team/organizations overall innovation goals.
3) Be open to new ideas (and be willing to build on them)
True innovation often comes from molding together multiple ideas. Being open to new ideas, especially as an executive, is essential for changing the innovation culture of the organization. The real magic begins to happen when new ideas are built on. In brainstorming sessions, just write down ideas. Then in another session work on combining similar ideas together with the intent of building on top of ideas rather than stating why they can’t happen.
4) Provide constructive feedback
Recognize good ideas! Communicate to your organization why an idea is good and what the next steps are to bring it from conception to reality. Be sure to allow the person(s) who came up with the idea to be a part of the implementation. If an idea isn’t quite there, provide constructive feedback to the employee(s) outlining why and how they could improve it. The key here is to encourage the continued flow of ideas. When people see ideas being accepted and implemented they are more likely to continue to contribute and that’s when true innovation happens.
5) Reward smart risk takers
People like to be recognized for their work – it could be a financial reward, promotion, public recognition, or an incentive program. Others will see that those who engage in smart risk taking and innovation get rewarded, in turn encouraging more people to come forward with their own ideas.
6) Showcase innovative work
There is almost certainly innovation happening in your teams and in your organizations, but many employees (maybe even you!) don’t know about it. Showcasing innovation really drives the message home to both executives and employees on what it means to be innovative. It also makes innovation tangible – seeing is believing!
If you have any questions on how to foster your organization’s culture of innovation, or if you are looking to innovate a particular program or product offering, contact us at Spring2 Innovation. You can find Nilufer online @DigitalNil and at WCT events throughout the year.