For any successful business in 2018, innovation drives growth. Refining processes, improving customer experience, expanding services and becoming more cost effective all require new ideas. Beyond the ideas themselves, implementing and changing requires a lot of work – and discipline. Without a structure in place to foster innovation, companies are left with a lot of untapped potential. How can directors and executives foster a culture where innovation is constant? Consider the following:
It’s also important for executives and directors to understand the importance of new ideas coming from staff members. Top-down leadership is useful in some manners, but business leaders simply don’t have the same, intimate perspective of certain processes that their staff does. Sometimes innovation can be specific – a form that gets filled out and can be streamlined, or a manual process that can be automated. These improvements have to come from the employees who work with those processes most often, and business leaders should give their staff the opportunity to vocalize those opportunities.
Great ideas can come from an individual, but successful execution of that idea requires a team. Individuals in an organization should be encouraged to reach out to managers and co-workers with ideas, and once managers are aware of an idea, they should help the individual put structure to the idea. Giving them resources, putting them in contact with other team members who can help, and encouraging exploration of the idea will help facilitate the transformation from idea to actually being put into practice.
Set Target Dates
Generating new ideas isn’t a typical tasks staff members build time for in their days. They likely have day-to-day work to address. Unless told otherwise, this “core” work will usually take priority over the implementation of new ideas. Managers need to work with staff to overcome these priority barriers. One of the best ways to do so is by creating a target date. Establishing deadlines (usually iterative deadlines to complete different phases of idea development) help to put a context and priority to idea development. Managers must also check in with staff to understand how well they’re navigating the balance of their core work and a new idea, providing support along the way.
The power of positive reinforcement is real. Celebrating successful implementation of an idea shows appreciation for above-and-beyond work, illustrates a positive impact on the business, and encourages others not involved in the project to share their bright ideas and try to put them into practice. Furthermore, celebrating these innovations on a company-wide level reinforces the idea to staff that they work for a company where new ideas are a part of the fabric, and where change is constant. This type of positive reinforcement has a snowball effect, creating a true company culture of innovation.