Encouraging workplace innovation not only helps companies stay on top of the market and defend their bottom lines: innovative workplaces are also happier workplaces, with consistently higher levels of employee satisfaction and retention.
Businesses are now paying more attention to the benefits of encouraging innovation than ever before. 63% of companies now have chief innovation officers to help drive new ideas and systems. However, doing it effectively is challenging and time-consuming.
How can companies encourage innovation and creativity in the workplace?
Encouraging innovation isn’t easy. From juggling competing company priorities to overcoming internal resistance and inertia, there are a lot of things that can get in the way. No matter what industry you’re in, unlocking the innovative potential of your people – and your business more generally – comes down to a mix of management approaches, shared values, strategy, and resources.
Of course, there’s no single solution to how to encourage innovation. This process always differs from company to company and depends on things like workplace culture, ingrained systems, and the talents and skills present within your staff. To help you out, we’ve got 16 techniques to encourage innovation in the workplace:
Leadership & Management
Unsurprisingly, the majority of our recommended innovation techniques focus on leadership and management. When it comes to innovation, the tone always comes from the top. Senior leaders need to find ways to encourage their staff to think about innovation every day and to take ownership and responsibility for new ideas and solutions. Encouraging innovation via leadership and management can be a challenge, but we’ve got some specific techniques that can definitely help.
- Empower your employees to think about tough problems
- Adopt a non-hierarchical management approach
- Give your staff a reason to care
- Find and motivate intrapreneurs
- Encourage your people to think about innovation on a daily base
Workplace innovation needs to be strategic and should be a core part of your company’s DNA. No matter what their responsibilities are, every single one of your people should be able to draw a straight line between the company innovation strategy and the contents of his or her day-to-day job
- Develop an innovation strategy – and use it
- Accept failure and make it the norm
Willingness to experiment
In order to be truly innovative, companies need to be willing to experiment. Whether this is through customer co-creation, identifying market adjacencies, or participating in an innovation hub, companies must demonstrate an appetite for new ways of doing things.
- Look for market adjacencies
- Embrace co-creation and open innovation opportunities
- Participate in an innovation hub
Getting innovation right takes a commitment to open communication and transparency. To make innovation a real part of your workplace culture, your staff need to know senior management is being open about the need for innovation, and the potential benefits for the company as a result.
- Be transparent
Innovation isn’t just about encouraging your staff to think laterally: it’s also about making sure that when your employees are being creative, they don’t feel threatened or at risk. There are two great ways to do this. First, you can recognize and reward innovations, and second, try to ensure staff psychological safety.
- Recognize and reward successful innovations
- Ensure staff psychological safety
Workplace design & layout
There’s a growing recognition that the physical working environment is just as important as management or leadership when it comes to encouraging innovation.
- Organize your office for maximum innovation
Tools & software
Finally, your staff also need access to the right tools to support innovation. There are two reasons for this. First, using the right set of tools can save time and effort, freeing your staff up to innovate. Second, a good set of innovation software can guide your staff in taking an idea through from concept to implementation.
- Use tools to create time and space to innovate
- Consider innovation software
True innovation takes commitment and perseverance
Despite what the business coaches might say, encouraging innovation isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Moving towards an innovative workplace takes time, hard work, and a certain amount of forgiveness for error and failure. Even successful and highly innovative companies still have their fair share of failures.
So, while you’re working to encourage workplace innovation, don’t be surprised if the changes are harder to implement than you thought. Innovation can be a long game. Whether you’re chasing incremental innovation or radical innovation, things will probably take longer than you realize.