A lot of entrepreneurs have realized the importance of innovation to survive in today’s business world. Building an innovative culture in which staff members dare to take risks to think, do and produce something out of the box may not be an easy task. However, despite the trickiness, here are some actions which can be put into practice to enlarge the possibilities of the innovative implementation at work. Most of the actions are addressed at people at the top management level, which will hopefully be adopted by the managers of all divisions and in the end, the whole employees.
The first thing to note is that innovative culture is not born from modern looking office with facilities and their trendy looking staff. Innovation comes from thinking and way too often, it lies way beneath the appearance of the office and even the company staff. A recent research conducted by the writer of Mapping Innovation suggests that innovative companies tend to share one major aspect: thoughtful executives who are brave enough to take charge and be the role model of innovation for the employees to take after.
As leaders who are in charge of creating an innovative atmosphere at the workplace, there are some of the key behaviours that need to done repeatedly as innovative habits.
- They should be able to encourage both the internal and external team to use their maximum potential by harnessing the innovative minds.
- They identify and measure staff effort and their contribution for the innovation. In return, they can wisely maintain these innovators to keep up their work and encourage others to do the same. Promoting this innovative thinking can be done through acknowledgment (from both management, colleagues, and external related parties), sense of accomplishment, and measured rewards, such as promotion and bonuses.
- They can foresee problems that customers are likely to face in the future and be of their interest, and at the same time, keep on challenging the team to work on possible solutions to handle those problems.
- They are open-minded and can always encourage their staff to speak up their mind. This attitude can be achieved by accepting, considering and appreciating all ideas proposed by the employees (regardless their compatibility with the company vision). To efficiently filter all the ideas collected, these questions can be used as guidelines:
- Can this brand new idea make a significant difference?
- If so, what are the things at risk?
- What are the possible challenges?
- How should those challenges or problems be addressed?
The second thing to highlight is to mind the common proverb: two heads are better than one. The truth is two heads usually mean more ideas, perspectives, solutions and insights. Encouraging the company team to brainstorm and propose their ideas is an effective way to create an innovative business culture. To maintain this speaking-up-your-mind attitude, all staff members should be able to keep an open mind. Ideas don’t always come from experts. Sometimes the greatest innovations come from novices and backroom tinkers.
The next thing to consider is the networks existing inside the company. Based on a study conducted in 2005, the kinds of internal networks that perform best are the ones that have medium closeness or attachment. It suggests that neither loose nor dense internal networks result in good performance; the medium networking, however, allows interactions to flow more freely inside the company. To guarantee innovation success, companies need both close tie of teams members that can work together and the loose tie of disparate groups.
Last but not least, it is important to note that innovation comes and can be well executed if team members can collaborate among themselves and with external partners. No organization holds all the cards in developing new innovation. In this case, MIT, CIA and Carnegie Mellon have done researches showing similar results pointing out that the most collaborative teams consist of members with diverse personalities and the work produced by these teams exceed beyond that of individual geniuses and teams of homogeneous striking personalities.
One of the successful survival business stories that has proven the theory is Xerox. Over fifty years ago when copying machine was the most earning company product line, a company staff proposed the idea of the birth of a new product, a laser printer. At first, the company engineers focusing on improving the efficiency of the copying machine refused the idea. Luckily, the company research division shared the innovative idea. Years later, the company found out that the sales of the copying machine dropped significantly and the laser printer was the product line that saved the company from bankruptcy.
Taking both the theory and experience into account, businessmen and women reading this article will hopefully be able to promote an innovative culture at work.
“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” (Steve Jobs)