How to Foster an Innovative Culture in Your Company
It’s taken you years to build your business. You’ve created, iterated, launched, and now you’ve reached a point where you need to keep moving your company forward. To do this, you rely on your team.
You need your team to innovate and create. You don’t need them to come up with the next big idea. You need them to come up with creative ways to reach your customers and continue moving the revenue needle forward. How do you do this? Here are 10 ways to foster an innovative culture in your company.
#1. Get Beyond the Idea Generation Stage Fast
When asked what an innovative company looks like, many people respond by saying, “they’re creative and come up with good ideas.” The problem with this is, innovation lies in the doing – not the idea generation.
Yes, creative thinking is part of innovation, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. For your company to be truly innovative, you have to encourage your team to get beyond the idea generation stage and take action. If you can’t deliver on an innovative idea, or the market doesn’t think it’s as exciting as you did in your boardroom, you’re not growing.
More importantly, if your team doesn’t see you acting on any of their ideas, you’ll suck their innovative energy dry. Innovation lies in the doing. Encourage forward momentum and you’ll encourage better innovation among your employees.
#2. Cut the Red Tape
One of the best ways to get moving on an idea is to get out of the way. Too often, businesses place hurdles in an employee’s way unnecessarily. This only stops him from wanting to pursue an idea to see if there’s potential.
Cut the red tape and make it easy to test out new concepts. This will get your team acting on ideas, which could breed new (and better) ideas down the line.
#3. Create Buy-In
If your team believes in what they’re doing, they will dedicate time and energy to the project. And, if a team member feels engaged with an idea, he’s more likely to pursue it full steam ahead.
Give your team a reason to invest themselves wholeheartedly in your new ideas. Explain the overall goal and how a positive outcome will impact each employee directly. But be careful. If you’re using the incentive of keeping the job, you’re going to dishearten your team rather than inspire them. Keep the outlook positive and rewarding so your team is inspired to work hard to reach their goals.
#4. Offer Short-Term Rewards
It’s easy to caught in the weeds of a project and lose sight of the end result. By setting up milestones throughout your project, you’re giving your team small wins to celebrate along the way.
But don’t let these celebrations last too long. As Michael Dell said, “Celebrate for a nanosecond.” Use the positive energy to keep moving in the direction toward your end goal.
#5. Silence Negativity
Nothing zaps the energy from a team as fast as a negative naysayer. If you have any kind of that cancer on your team, cut it fast. You’ll grow faster when your entire team is built up of enthusiastic, positive people.
#6. Stop Operating Out of a Silo
When your team operates out of a silo, it’s easy to miss important insights that can further inch the innovation needle. For example, the IT department might notice a trend in how your customers use the website. If the marketing department doesn’t know about this trend, they’ll have a harder time optimizing funnels and the research and development team won’t have insight into what your customers want.
To bake innovation into your company’s DNA, you must create an environment where everyone is encouraged to and has the ability to work together across all departments. This collaboration can happen at weekly stand up meetings. Or, you can encourage cross-department communication by rearranging your office space to be more open. No matter what you do, make sure it’s known by your team that you expect everyone to share insights and information.
#7. Celebrate Failure
Is your knee-jerk reaction to fire an employee if she fails? If so, you’re stifling creativity and discouraging innovation.
No one wants to branch out and try something bold if they know their job is at risk. Promote creativity by celebrating failures as attempts to progress the business toward your goals. Learn from each mistake and use that as fuel for your future projects.
#8. Have a Cut Off Point of When to Stop
Although failure is an important part of innovation, it’s equally critical to know when to stop innovating. Before you dive into any new projects, outline when you’ll call a project unsuccessful. This could be a monetary amount. Or, it could be a set number of customers. Whatever the metric you choose to use is, make sure you have something outlined so you’re not spending more money than necessary on something that won’t give you a return.
#9. Use IT to Your Advantage
Do you have a remote team? Do you require your team to work shifts? Using technology can make a big difference in your team’s innovative spirit for a few reasons.
First, it lets your team stay closer connected, especially if you’re working virtually. Using video conferencing allows you to meet with your team face-to-face, which can spur innovation and encourage ownership in your projects.
Second, it lets your team take administrative headaches out of the way of innovation. Too often, people get caught up in the weeds of scheduling, payroll, and other administrative tasks. There are apps or programs that can ease these administrative burdens leaving your team with more room to get creative.
Finally, it lets you see what’s out there now. By immersing yourself in the tools your customers are likely using, you can get a better gauge for what their daily life looks like. This can help you expand on current solutions and carve out your unique niche.
#10. Take a Month Off Every Year
This sounds crazy, right? But one company has seen tremendous success with it.
Basecamp is a project management software company that uses the traditionally slower summer months to give their team time off. During this time, one of their employees approached the leadership team with a request to have the time and space to explore another idea he had. It was granted and out of it came a new idea that helped the company move forward.
“Ideas aren’t born from ether; they are born from consideration and formulation, research and comparison, all of which require time and space,” the company blog said.
You can use the same approach. Give your team a day or two off from their regular projects and tasks to explore their ideas. You never know what new ideas will take shape.
Here’s to a More Innovative You
Innovation isn’t something you can teach. It’s something that must be ingrained into your company’s culture. By giving your team the room to foster ideas and act on them, you’re setting your business up for success.
Jon Forknell is the Vice President and General Manager of Atlas Business Solutions, Inc., a software marketing company specializing in employee scheduling software, including ScheduleBase employee scheduling software, and other business software solutions. In the past, Jon has been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Atlas Business Solutions was named as one of Software Magazine's Top 500 Software Companies 2004-2007 and again in 2010, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017.Read Full Bio