In today's corporate environment, regardless of the industry, if you don't encourage a culture of innovation you will be left far behind. This is a key reason for flatter organisations, with fewer layers of management, becoming popular in recent times. As there are fewer levels of decision making, it is easier to take the risks needed to stay innovative.
There are several benefits of cultivating an innovative culture.
- Lesser turnover, improved retention: Employees like to work in innovative and challenging jobs that promote team work and problem solving
- Your business model will continually match the dynamic and rapid changing environment
- Attraction of new customers by improving existing, or offering new, products or services or entering new markets
- The energy in such an environment is very positive and progressive
- Everyone tends to work towards improving the business efficiency and performance.
Innovation is the process of translating an idea into a good service or product that creates value. A new, more effective way of doing the same thing is innovation, so is getting a fresh perspective on an existing process. Innovation does not have to be all grand and glorious. Sometimes this expectation of something big out of ourselves or our teams becomes a deterrent in introducing baby steps towards acknowledging innovation. After all, every thousand mile journey starts with the first step. It is very important to acknowledge minor improvements in situations and people around you.
A survey by McKinsey&Company revealed that 94 percent of managers are unhappy with their company’s innovation performance.
Several initiatives can be taken to improve it.
- Putting together a team with diverse backgrounds, passions, and capabilities is an enabler for innovation. Having a group with varied set of ideas and problem-solving approaches breeds innovation.
- Embracing and celebrating your team members’ individuality, bizarre and out-of-the-box ideas and problem-solving approaches helps encourage creativity.
- Rewarding them, even when the end result is not as productive and desired as expected, is also important.
- The senior management needs to lead by example. They need to create an environment that encourages sharing of new ideas and being open and approachable to them.
- Many practices can be put in place such as suggestion boxes, ideation walls dedicated times or meetings.
- Ensure that there is a process which everyone understands for assessing, evaluating and then implementing each new idea quickly.
- Offer the needed skill development or training if required. Expose your team to motivational speakers, thought leaders or radical achievers.
What facilitates innovation is creativity. It is absolutely important to encourage creativity in yourself and your people if you want to be innovative.
With deadlines to meet, incessant emails and work to be done, creating the space for creativity is often a challenge. However, that is the one important ingredient for creativity: Mental space. If your mind is too cluttered with your to-do list and what not, it is difficult for creativity to find its voice. Creativity arouses out of your more demure shy feminine right side of the brain. After all Newton, Archimedes, Mozart all made big discoveries in fields, bathtubs and at the back of horse carriages. Creativity needs to be cajoled out of its shell most times.
Another important thing that is needed is the sensing of a creative idea passing through your thoughts. Creative ideas are very plain-clothed when they first arise. It's your awareness first followed by your imagination and knowledge that transforms it into that "creative" idea. Creative ideas belong to everyone and yet to no one; if you won’t not grab them and make them your own, sure enough someone else will find it. When there were no easy means to communicate between continents, it has been noted that similar discoveries were coincidentally made at the same time.
In the midst of all the mayhem, finding the time to participate in right brain activities (example, music, fine arts, colouring, painting, singing, etc) which appeal to you is one way to get started towards allowing your creativity to take physical form.
To sum up, innovation arises from creativity which is a skill that can be developed in yourself and your people by putting the right practices in place. You will just have to be creative about it.