3 ways to build a culture of innovation in your company

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Galvanise your workforce towards progress “The heart and soul of the company is creativity and innovation.” Bob Iger – CEO Disney

This all sounds very impressive and motivating, however, does anyone actually know in practical terms what the “I” word really means. Put simply, it is the introduction of novel products, which in turn add value to the business and customer.

Sounds fairly straightforward, right? But how can you inspire innovation in your workforce?

Make it your core business philosophy

In order to have truly innovative business practices, it must be central to your mission. Your employees need to feel as if it is an integral part of their job.

Convince your employees to find ways to do things better. Quicker. Smarter.

Have meetings about potential avenues of business, ensuring that your team feels part and parcel of the process. Make sure that personnel are constantly introduced to interesting ideas and encouraged towards collaboration, whether in the office or through social media. Collaboration is an effective tool in the sharing and development of new theories. Creating a collaborative atmosphere will not only inspire innovation but also cultivate a stimulating environment, as Margaret Heffernan, business journalist and TED speaker, eloquently said, “For good ideas and true innovation you need human interaction, conflict, argument and debate.”

Be experimental

Google is always top of the list when it comes to exceptional and groundbreaking ideas, and this is for good reason. Take the example of the Google Art Project launched in 2011. Developed because of Google’s ‘20% policy,’ where employees are encouraged to spend 20% of their time working on any ideas/code/project that they would like. The Google Art Project allows the user to digitally walk through museums and art galleries, viewing spectacular pieces up close, to the point where you can actually see the brush strokes. This entire project was developed and brought to fruition because Google realises the importance of giving employees the time and space to invent.

However, not every idea that comes out of a pioneering office space will be worthy of the next big product. But, most will have some form of merit; maybe it can be adapted or could form the basis of something in the future. If your employees spend the time and have the confidence to come forward with a concept, then it is crucial for you to take the time to consider it.

Additionally, there has to be the confidence from the key decision makers to take risks; advancing your company can’t be achieved by playing it safe. As Bill Gross, the founder of Idealab stated:

“The thing that actually unlocks human potential is when people feel they have control over their own destiny and they can make a killing if they really succeed on their wild bet.”[1]

However, a wild bet will only work if there is a strong culture of support from every person and department: from finance to marketing. With everybody pulling together to make innovation a worthwhile venture and productive notion.

Training is essential

Not everyone is innately creative, and not everyone thrives off the bat in an inventive setting. Organisations need to be supportive of their staff and provide the right incentives and training to help develop their strengths. If an employee feels that they have the ability to be original then this will give them the self-assurance to innovate, and you never know what type of left field thinking will come out. Training and motivation are key to growing your employees with an innovative mindset being the same as any skill. It has to be learnt and honed.

So, you need to lay the groundwork. Lead from the front and build a groundbreaking work culture. Encourage your staff to be bold and perhaps, yes, a little rebellious in their thinking, for as Vivek Wadhwa, an American technology entrepreneur, comments, “A key ingredient in innovation is the ability to challenge authority and break rules.” Give them an innovation mission. Chances are that something beautifully unexpected just might happen.

[1] http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/how-big-companies-can-innovate