4 Strategies to Foster an Innovative Work Environment
What can be done to make your organization more innovative?
The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the rules for conducting business. Now more than ever, innovative behavior is one of the essential characteristics that a company needs to develop in order to stay competitive in the changing economic landscape and new trends in consumer behavior. In order to keep your customers happy or attract new customers, the introduction of new business services, products, or processes will be the key to ensuring your organization’s future success. So, how do you foster a working environment that supports innovation within your organization?
In this post, I’ll discuss four proven strategies to enhance the innovative dimension of your company.
1) Embrace a ‘Freedom to Fail’ Culture
Let’s consider 3M, a multi-billion dollar American company, as a shining example of an enormously successful company that is known for fostering an innovative work culture by allowing employees the Freedom to Fail. As pointed out by Art Fry, the inventor of the Post-It Note at 3M, companies that wish to empower the innovative minds within the workplace need to provide freedom to employees: the freedom to fail and freedom to learn from the missteps.
The lesson that freedom can open the door to innovativeness can also be applied to the design of job roles.
As research shows, flexible job roles can engender more participation in innovation. For example, If you are in the position to hire, instead of creating a bulleted and rigid job description, consider providing room for the next person you hire to mold their responsibilities as they grow into the role. When given the space to think outside-of-the-box of a job description, people will notice opportunities for innovation that they might not have recognized otherwise. The idea is to support everyone in your organization on the quest to identify areas of innovation and provide the space for exploration.
2) Promote Cross-Functional Communication
When it comes to innovation, cross-functional collaboration in the workplace leads to a greater exchange of thoughts and expertise that can spark the creation of novel ideas. As Gary Hamel said, “too many companies define themselves by what they do rather than by what they know”. Bringing cross-functional teams together to solve company problems is one excellent way to tap the innovative potential of your organization.
Multi-disciplinary collaboration and coordination are necessary for a new business idea to succeed in concept development and become an innovation. Companies with siloed business departments face an extra challenge in implementing new business concepts since the responsibility to produce innovation is split across different units. If these units experience poor communication, the odds that a new product or service is quickly (or successfully) brought to market are marginal. Both cross-functional and open communication are critical to fostering a culture of innovation in the workplace.
Next, we’ll dive deeper into the importance of differing perspectives when it comes to innovating.
3) Spark Creativity through Diversity
Creativity includes more than innovation, but innovation inherently includes creativity. At BlueCallom, creativity is treated as the ability to compose ideas by searching the mind for correlations between various lived experiences. Being creative allows us to develop novel concepts. In order to foster an innovative workplace, individual creativity should be celebrated as an organizational resource. It is no secret that when people of different backgrounds and skill-sets are brought together, they can collectively generate great new ideas.
But, what is actually happening through this exchange that enables the creation of potentially breakthrough ideas? Creative abrasion, which is described as a process where different, sometimes clashing, perspectives are integrated (Source: HBR). In a nutshell, this means that in order to cultivate a working environment that leads to innovation, it’s absolutely critical to avoid an innovation monoculture of experts.
At BlueCallom, the Innovation Dream Team is a stage in the Innovation Journey which supports your team to assemble a diverse group of people to support your innovation vision. BlueCallom’s neuro innovation management software will help guide you through this team assembly process with a focus on diversity.
Regardless of how innovation is handled in your organization, whether it’s a separate unit or a decentralized program, ensuring that people with diverse backgrounds and starkly different approaches are included in the innovation generation process is a productive step towards building a culture of innovation. Unleashing creativity through the diversity of thought is key.
4) Implement an Innovation Management Process
How do you get from a great idea to a tangible innovation? The answer lies in designing a process that supports innovation within your organization, in other words: innovation management. It’s proven that having a structure and a set of common guidelines in place supports innovation.
While most existing innovation process models are catered to producing incremental innovations, meaning modest improvements to existing products or services, BlueCallom has developed a twelve-step innovation methodology with the goal of generating breakthrough innovation. The core of the BlueCallom innovation methodology lies in the ideation process and a technique called Neuro Ideation. Neuro ideation is a brain-stimulating ideation process that unlocks ideas by harnessing collective creativity from individual experiences. To learn more about neuro ideation, you can check out this webinar or this blog post.
Are you interested in more actionable insight into managing innovation? We welcome you to explore our Deep Innovation Design online course.
Thank you for reading! Is there any strategy that has worked well for your company that was not mentioned here? If so, please add your comment.