Innovation is the lifeblood of a successful organization. New ideas, fresh approaches, and improved strategies are the only way companies will be able to pivot and grow in the modern business climate. But innovation takes time and brainpower, and workers of every industry rarely have time blocked on their daily calendars for the sake of brainstorming or learning something new.
Whether they are bogged down with the daily tasks of their jobs, tangled in company bureaucracy, or robbed of time by too much minutiae, employees often lack time to think creatively. These four steps will break down those barriers to promote a culture of innovation and creativity at your workplace.
1. Empower employees to make decisions
Employees who regularly feel that their voice is not heard are not motivated to contribute their ideas. This type of environment stymies innovation. On the flip side, employees who feel empowered to make decisions and take action are proven to care more about the work they put forward. They are more likely to speak up and share their thoughts. So how can you empower employees?
Foster an environment of idea sharing and action. Reward contribution and do not be overly critical of mistakes. Employees who are not afraid to make mistakes are more likely to share a wide array of ideas; not just guaranteed winners. This promotes an environment of innovative thinking.
Be communicative about company policy and evolving strategies. Be transparent about results. Open communications helps connect employees, which incentivizes and motivates. Invite their input on challenges. A clear understanding of these challenges and current business processes will empower employees to think innovatively.
2. Promote work-life balance
Work-life balance is increasingly important in the modern office environment. While the benefits of smart phones, mobile laptops, flexible work hours, and remote working are huge, these privileges can sometimes mean employees have a hard time “turning off” at the end of the day.
Take regular temperature checks of your workers to prevent burn out. Lead by example and encourage everyone to do the same. Take your lunch break. Go home at the end of the day in time to have dinner with your family. Keep evening and weekend work communication to a minimum. Encourage employees to take time to recharge their batteries so they come to work each morning refreshed and ready to think creatively.
3. Refresh employee skill sets
Companies who prize innovation also prize education and training. This is a commonly overlooked step, however. New skills training and continuing education—whether it be consulting projects, eLearning, or classroom learning—are often seen by workers to be intrusive to the workday, devoid of any real follow up, and generally low in value. With the right tools though, this is not the case.
Make training a priority at your office. Regular training should be flexible, accessible, and accommodate the diverse needs and learning abilities of your workers.
There are modern online learning platforms that are structured to facilitate group problem solving and skill sharing. Challenge Based Learning, for example, guides participants through digital sprints in which they work to complete a number of sequential assignments that ultimately solve an actual company challenge or teach a particular new skill set. Participants learn, practice, reflect, and share knowledge with the purpose of creating lasting change that promotes innovative thinking to solve problems. This style of learning strengthens collaboration among teams, facilitates ideation, and promotes innovation.
4. Encourage group collaboration
Group brainstorming sessions are an excellent way to promote innovation at the workplace. Different brains will naturally think of different ways to tackle a project or business problem. As with most team activities, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Like training, time must be set aside for dedicated collaboration and idea sharing. Hold monthly workshops or quarterly off-site meetings to shake up the routine and help ideas flow.
Group collaboration should be a time when employees are encouraged to think of new ways of doing things. New ideas big and small are guaranteed to emerge.
More innovation leads to higher satisfaction
Companies that encourage innovation are proven to be more satisfying workplaces. And research shows that happier employees are more productive workers. Harvard Business Review published an analysis of hundreds of studies of job place satisfaction that showed an average of 31 percent higher productivity and 3 times higher creativity, which correlated to 37 percent higher sales.
Promoting a culture of innovation stands to benefit your company tremendously. With a little workplace tweaking and the commitment to continuously cultivate an environment of innovation, it might actually seem like good ideas really do grow on trees at your office.