Innovation is the apparent holy grail of business success, but it needn't be so hard to attain. Take a step back and think about what innovation really means. You might be surprised at how innovative your employees really are. The key thing to remember here is that innovation isn't invention. You don't need your teams to be coming up with brand new concepts, but rather solving the problems you and your customers already have. Avoiding all 'thinking out side of the box' type phraseology - how do you actually foster innovation? Considering the definition above, an important part of innovation is to be able to see new solutions and move away from the standard ways of thinking or doing. Here are 4 ways you can help your teams to be innovative:
A good way to encourage free thinking is to give individuals and teams time and space to think and be inspired. Learning new, simple skills and being exposed to new things as a team can help to instil a more creative, open minded culture. We have skill swaps at Webcredible where we share hobbies, interests and sources of inspiration with each other every 2 weeks. These skill swaps can be on anything, for instance making peppermint mice, showcasing work from an old project or talking about your favourite brand or shop and why you love them. On a larger scale, take Google, Facebook and LinkedIn as prime examples - they allocate a portion of their employees time to work on personal projects. Google claims that many of their products in Google Labs started out as pet projects in the 20 percent time program. Of course not every organistion has the resources for such practices but smaller initiatives like our skill swaps, can really help inspire your teams.
Another way to support innovation is to collect people with different backgrounds, personalities and priorities to work together to solve a particular problem. Your HR manager will have a different perspective of things to your marketing manager or digital designer so bringing a number of disciplines together to openly discuss an area of work brings about a lot more ideas, and more importantly a lot of different ideas.
Employees under pressure to perform are more likely to play things safe and innovation isn't about doing the same thing, it's about doing something new. Creating an environment that allows for mistakes is key. Rewarding employees in terms of new initiatives rather than performance metrics in certain areas can give your teams the confidence to try and fail, rather than not try at all.
Finally, there is no point innovating for innovations sake. Understanding the problems your customers have and putting effort and time to solve the most important areas will align innovation to success. Even the process of understanding the behaviours and thoughts of your customers can inspire your teams to do things differently so that the needs of the customer are better served. Even without the above 3 points, analysis of customer research in itself can be a great source of innovation. For more ideas for fostering innovation you can check out some inspiration I gained from Pixar in my previous blog about innovation... I'd be really interested to see what initiatives you have to foster creativity and open-thinking in your organisations, please leave your thoughts below!