3 tips for encouraging innovation in the workplace

by Mike Sharkey

Innovation is the key to business success. Companies that want to thrive need to know how to source more cutting-edge ideas from more places in the organization. Here’s how.

Globalization and digital disruption have changed the business landscape for good. Companies are no longer big fish in small ponds with few competitors. Instead, firms face competition from all around the world. Established organizations can find themselves having to rethink strategies as disrupters use cutting edge tech to upend industry traditions.

CEOs are focusing on innovation as the key to business success

In this competitive and fast-paced world, CEOs are focusing on innovation as the key to business success. In PwC’s 20th CEO Survey in 2017, almost a quarter of 246 chief executive respondees said innovation was the area they most wanted to strengthen. This was ahead of human capital and digital and technology capabilities. So the question is, just how do business leaders encourage innovation in the workplace?

Every employee is an innovator

The company that focuses on its R&D department alone for new innovations is trying to put the creative process in a box. It’s counter-productive and the creative force will soon fizzle out if you’re relying on a few people to come up with all the ideas.

Instead, give every single employee the chance to innovate by encouraging idea sharing and involving them in the development of new ideas.

The old suggestions box is still a great idea. But moving the conversation online into an enterprise social network like Workplace will allow ideas to percolate and develop. Tools like groups and News Feed make innovation visible and accessible. If everyone in the organization can see and comment on new ideas the whole company can brainstorm together.

Organizations can move faster when you give people the space and the tools to innovate

A salesperson can post a suggestion in the morning about new material they need to close a deal. The marketing team can discuss and deliver creative in the afternoon. And you take delivery of your new brochure the very next day. Organizations can move faster when you give people the space and the tools to innovate.

Every idea is a good idea (even when it’s not)

Rewarding workplace change and innovation is an important way to motivate employees to keep coming up with new ideas. That reward can be monetary, or it could be a company-wide acknowledgment on the enterprise network. A post thanking the person at the heart of a great new opportunity is a boost that will keep them thinking and engaged.

But it’s also important to make sure everyone know there’s no such thing as a bad idea. The vast proportion of new ideas fail. Many ideas that sound ridiculous turn out to be ingenious.

Never allow a member of the team to feel foolish for a suggestion or punish people for running with an idea that fails. Failure is a learning process. Handle it right and you can encourage the team to do better next time.

Every innovator needs the right tools

So many good ideas have come about as a result of digital disruption that there’s a tendency to throw technology at problems and call it innovation.

Technology is a tool but creativity comes from your employees. Use technology to empower them to innovate

But technology is a tool. It can enable workplace change and innovation, but creativity comes from your employees. So rather than seeing it as an end in itself, use technology to empower people to innovate.

The virtual suggestions box is a great place to start, but employees need to be able to work together across disciplines. They need to not only share ideas but to collaborate on the same documents. They need to contact each other by voice and video an IM.

Building a network to support this communication makes teams working on problems more efficient. Keep that network open across the company and it’s likely you’ll see organic “teams” emerge around common interests.

And that could mean new ideas and better innovations springing up from more places in your organization.

Watch how Telenor is using Workplace to innovate. And try Workplace Premium free for 90 days.

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