How to Foster a Culture of Innovation
Good leaders are bold thinkers. From the top down and across the board, they play a primary role in fostering innovation within their organizations.
Successful innovation requires neither forced rules nor rigid templates. It calls for guiding principles, as creating a more innovative culture is an organic and highly creative art. Make innovation the responsibility of everyone within your company by driving authority downwards, making decisions quickly and setting related performance goals for every functional area.
Create a New Innovation Paradigm
Encourage and support your employees as they take calculated risks and try new things. Make this the norm, not the exception. Stop them only when their safety or the financial, legal or operational stability of your organization is threatened. In the worst case scenario, everyone learns from their mistakes. What is more likely to happen is pure magic.
- Ensure a high level of freedom and trust. Provide time and resources for people to pursue new ideas. Encourage them to get out of their offices, cubicles and silos and to meet informally, one on one and in small groups.
- Notice and reward innovative efforts. Acknowledge them, even if they don’t work out. Reward collective success. At the same time, maintain clear individual accountabilities and keep innovation heroes visible.
- Involve as many people as possible. It starts at the top, but innovation is a team sport. Every person needs to feel like they matter – that the outcome wouldn’t be the same without their contribution. Make sure every employee has a clear sense of purpose and value in connection to your larger business vision.
- Seek diversity of viewpoints. Get people together across functions. Constant inquiry and questions form the foundation of innovation.
- Invite outside partners to share innovation. Find ways for your company to partner with others and actively share ideas, technology and other strengths. Do this early on, when you’re still exploring possible opportunities. For instance, get customer feedback before committing resources to new product development.
- Think long term. The average successful spinoff takes approximately 7.5 years. Your commitment to innovation initiatives must be well beyond the near future. Create a portfolio of opportunities for both the short and long term. Just like an investment portfolio, this balance is critical.
- Embrace failure. Even at the most successful companies, 50 to 70 percent of new product innovations fail. The difference between organizations who succeed and those who fail is not their rate of success. It’s the fact that they have a lot of ideas, pilots and product innovations in their pipeline. Risk experimentation. Have the courage to accelerate through failure by building momentum.
Communication is Key
Communicate your commitment to innovation and related details and developments. Do this on an ongoing basis. Deliver each key message multiple times using the media platforms that reach your employees and other stakeholders.
- Question and listen. Sit back. Be open and curious. Ask the extra questions of all team members so you can challenge yourself and others to go deeper and stretch further. In the words of Amazon CEO and Founder Jeff Bezos, “Every new theory creates two new questions and two new opportunities.”
As you develop your workforce for ongoing innovation and success, turn to the executive search consultants at BrainWorks for the deepest insight and the latest tools and resources. Contact us today to learn more.