We all know that the most successful companies innovate. With many people reluctant to embrace organisational change, a difficult financial environment and a general inability amongst businesses to compete in increasingly global markets, it’s critical for leaders to create the right environment for innovation. Here’s how to do it:
Develop cohesive work groups.
Individuals that feel part of a close team that is working towards the same goal may feel more inclined and comfortable in contributing ideas for new products or process changes. If there is a ‘no-blame’ culture and the risk of being ignored or even embarrassed for having an innovative idea is removed, staff are more likely to make suggestions.
It is important, however to tread the line carefully between cohesive working and accepting and never challenging the norm. Where the norm is not or cannot be challenged, innovation will generally not be prevalent.
Provide the right resources for innovation.
Google encouraged innovation through its 20% programme which allowed employees to devote a fifth of their working week to ‘special projects’. Having freedom of time supports the thought processes, trials, tweaks and failures that drive business change. Freeing up cash, people, machines, and materials for new or different work is essential for building an innovative environment. A support system must be in place as an enabler to freeing up resources- without management support, how would even the best idea get to fruition?
Embed HR structures that encourage a low people turnover.
If people leave often or without completing an effective amount of service, the environment and culture may not be open and honest. This is connected to cohesive working- an open environment breeds idea sharing and feedback. Innovation works best in businesses with a learning culture where staff are encouraged to exchange information. Give praise when praise is due- this will help develop team trust.
Involve staff at all levels in decision making.
It’s often the case that Senior Managers don’t know the detail of day to day operations. It can be that operational staff hold the key to more efficient ways of working, to what customers really want, or what local competitors are offering, and involving staff at all levels in the decision making process can tease these innovations out.
Complete an innovation audit.
- The organisational ‘climate’
- Your rate of new product/ service development
- Customer satisfaction ratings
- The cognitive styles of your leadership team, and
- Whether the work groups, resources and structures are in place for innovation.
Learn from your audit and make changes to improve the environment.
Do you have the right environment for innovation?