5 Keys to Building & Maintaining a Culture of Innovation

January 3, 2018 by  

In today’s fast-moving world of technology, businesses need to find a way to keep up and even move ahead of the crowd. In order to do that, the leadership needs to create and commit to establishing and maintaining a culture that invites and encourages innovation. In order to do that, employees must feel that they are appreciated, supported, and encouraged as well as listened to respectfully. When that is well known, individuals can be free to think in creative and innovative ways thus being able to freely develop new ideas, processes, and products. When allowed to do that the organization will have engaged, challenged, high-performing, and productive teams. All of which are beneficial to the success and longevity of any organization.

In order to do this the following elements should be considered:

1. The leadership must demonstrate their intention and desire to innovate:
Many business leaders pay only lip service to innovation. Many opportunities are lost if companies stop innovating. Intentional innovation involves not only announcing a company’s plan to ‘innovate’ but also requires the creation of avenues for that innovation to actually occur throughout the entire company. Intentional innovation provides legitimate and meaningful opportunities that allow everyone in the company to be able to bring forth their ideas. This also means that the leadership must have the strength and be willing to make the changes necessary to actually move the new ideas forward.

2. Unstructured and experimenting time must be scheduled:
You cannot develop a strong team overnight and the same is true for great innovation. Your organization has to develop a real and respected place to germinate and develop new ideas. Time and resources must be made available as the best creations come from a mind free from routine. You need to allow for individuals to have some limited latitude beyond the normal confines of the office, such as retreats, outdoor activities, and even just walks at any time, which can all be conducive to creative thought.

3. Permit mistakes as they are opportunities to learn:
Any company ramping up their authentic innovation efforts needs to allow for errors and inefficiencies. Innovation does not always yield its benefits according to preset timelines and costs. We would not have the technological advances, aerial options or even electricity if the inventors had not made mistakes and learned from them. It is not always about profits and accounting processes. Better to give your people the opportunity to just be creative, experience a few bumps, but keep moving forward and experimenting until something viable is developed.

4. Determine ways to effectively measure innovative impact:
One of the keys to nurturing impactful innovative efforts is to have determined just how you will measure their impact and the resulting successes. The key metrics to consider include new additions to your revenue, profit margins, penetration into new markets, a reduction in costs, absenteeism or turnover. All of which generally occur when employees feel appreciated, supported, and encouraged because when that is present so is engagement. Engaged employees are more self-motivated, generally work at a higher level of performance, and are going to be likely to stay with the company because they are happy there.

5. Find ways to motivate in a meaningful way:
Innovation generally changes the way people work, and what they work on. Leaders need to ensure that everyone affected by the changes understands the impact of the innovative efforts and can actually see the benefits for themselves and their departments. This may mean more skills development, promotional opportunities, job diversity, or bonuses, nonetheless, it needs to be seen as important to each employee so that they will all buy into its success. Keeping everyone in the loop about the project will go a long way to getting and keeping everyone on board with the new project. In addition, it demonstrates that the leadership is committed to its success.

Building this internal architecture of innovation is no simple task, it takes patience, dedication, and commitment by the leadership. However, if you are strongly behind it and can demonstrate that support in meaningful ways you will very likely be able to develop and maintain that desired culture and reap its benefits.

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