Businesses grow thanks to innovation. And that can only be achieved by taking action. Upgrades do not appear just by waiting for them. For that reason, any company needs to foster innovation in the workplace.
According to the analysis of PwC, the most important source of innovation for a company are internal employees, with 60% of the surveyed corporations citing them as essential. Innovation developed in the workplace is seen as more significant than innovation coming from technology partners, customer feedback, or even from tracking the competition ideas.
It is not something easy to accomplish, although. The report The Corporate Innovation Imperative interviewed 44 leaders of large companies on innovation initiatives. And the most repeated answer when questioned about the biggest challenge for modernization was “fostering an internal culture of innovation”. 57% of the interviewed answered that.
Innovation is always positive for a company. It can bring improved results in a long list of different areas. As the same report concludes, the most common aspects that drive this research for innovation are three: increasing the revenue, greater customer satisfaction, and shortening the time to market new products.
So, if you are looking for ideas on how to promote innovation in your workplace, in this article you will find a few interesting ones. So, take notes on what you can do to foster innovation!
1. Use innovation to develop your weak points
The first step for innovation must come from evaluating your work and finding room for improvement. Creative new innovative approaches can be the best way to convert your weak points to stronger ones.
Amazon is nowadays the fourth biggest company in the world. When it was created in 1994, it started as an online book store. It continues to sell books, of course. But when the company saw how big of a market opportunity e-commerce was, Amazon transitioned from a book store to an online supermarket, where users could buy almost anything they wanted.
Jeff Bezos’ company was already innovating when it chose to sell books on the internet in the 90s. But as the internet grew, only selling books was its weakness. Expanding the product offer to the one existing now is one of the main reasons why Amazon has become one of the biggest brands in the world.
If a company makes its innovation efforts also a part of the development of objectives, every employee will be working towards new innovative approaches and will be constantly engaged in the creative process of innovating.
Businesses that are successful with this mantra get to grow at the same time that they develop teams who are constantly trying to find better ways to accomplish their objectives. Creating a positive loop on innovation.
2. Keep the employees pleased with their work
If a company wants to continue growing and improving its work, the is nothing worse than having employees unhappy with what they do. Innovation thrives when people are so invested in their mission that they try to find new and more optimal ways to get thing done.
As you can imagine, workers should be motivated to do that. Companies that want to foster innovation will have to make an effort to create that motivation. An assignment in which human resources departments play a big role. But also, managers must develop the skill to identify when their employees are not truly invested and know how to create incentives to revert this situation.
Job burnout must be avoided. There are multiple ways in which this feeling manifests. It can be exhaustion, inefficacy, or just stopping caring about their work. Any of these three situations is clearly an obstacle to innovation in the workplace.
Everyone should be rewarded accordingly for their good work. In the ends, it encourages them to keep up the effort. Incentives to do so can be monetary – better salaries, result bonuses…-, but also non-monetary – better working conditions, work appreciation…-.
In our article ‘12 work-life balance tips for living a healthy life’, we gave you some ideas on how to reward your team to avoid employee burnout.
3. Be open to any idea
Artist and producer Charlie Day once said that “sometimes even hearing a bad idea is a great way to get to a good idea”. When talking about innovation, he is not wrong. You need to be ready to hear about any idea that comes from your team. Even the ones that sound bad at first. Let the person that came up with it explain to you the thought process behind it and how it can be a success. You might get surprised.
And do not refuse to hear ideas coming from junior employees or any lower rank workers. Even those who may not be experts in a certain field can give their insight into what could be improved. Experience is important for innovation, as it means having accumulated more knowledge, but everyone can have bright ideas.
To foster innovation, you must create a work climate in which everyone is included and feels listened to. If the opposite happens, no one will have the motivation to try to innovate. The employees will feel it is a waste of time and energy.
AT&T, one of the biggest telecommunications companies in the world, created in 2009 the project The Innovation Pipeline. Every AT&T worker could send their innovative ideas to corporate for them to analyze. By 2019, ten years after its introduction, more than 130.000 employees had sent over 50.000 different ideas. And 100 of those ideas ended up as projects backed by the company.
This is an example of how when everyone feels part of the team, they get more involved in their job. Because an employee that thinks that their innovative ideas are being listened to, even if in the end they are not used, will feel encouraged to introduce newer ones.
4. Foster innovation in the long-term
Innovation is all about long-term planning. Breakthrough inventions are meant to change how we act. Not for a few days or a month, but forever. Those revolutionary ideas do not come up every day.
We all have ideas all the time. Some are better, some are worse. If you are thinking about fostering innovation in the workplace, you must have the skill to recognize which ones are good and which ones are not. But also, you should have the patience to work on innovative ideas without expecting quick results.
Innovation takes time. And in a lot of cases, it even takes failures. Ideas need to be polished to become well-produced projects or developments. And that means that you need to be confident about the ideas you think are good. Not canceling them if you do not get immediate results, because you are thinking about the long-term, when the advancements will be useful.
This is a really important thought to have in mind when creating a positive environment for innovation. Because if you expect quick spectacular results, you will end up frustrated with your advancement and even damaging all the innovative efforts done.
Michael Horvath is the co-founder of Strava, one of the biggest fitness tracker companies nowadays. In a recent interview, he stated that when he founded Strava in 2009 he was told that “the idea would never have success because it would be impossible to ever have that kind of technology”.
Strava made profits for the first time in 2020. His team had a breakthrough idea when the technology behind it was non-existent. But they worked towards the long-term goal, because they were confident that they were developing a great innovative idea and that technological advancements would follow its path.