Few adages strike fear into small business owners’ hearts like “innovate or die”. These days, the ability to spearhead and execute trailblazing ideas is as essential to commercial success as maintaining customer relationships and managing cash flow. But transforming innovation from buzzword to business practice means investing in creativity and changing the way you think. Here are four tried-and-tested tips for making innovation part of your culture.
Build time for experimentation into your employees’ workday
Google owes much of its dizzying trajectory to its willingness to let staff members explore their own ideas. During its formative years, the search giant’s 20 per cent time rule – a management policy that encouraged employees to spend a portion of their workday inventing bold new concepts – gave rise to products such as Gmail and Google News. If this daily routine is unfeasible, invite your staff members to experiment one afternoon a fortnight or a couple of hours a week. Incorporating innovation into your employee’s schedules is your first step toward making it a part of your culture.
Encourage your team members to pursue side projects
It might seem counterintuitive to encourage your staff members to pursue passions after they clock off. But self-initiated side projects can also teach your employees to take initiative, reject conventional wisdom and embrace big-picture thinking – skills that are essential for creative breakthroughs. Encouraging after-hours pursuits can boost energy, motivation and productivity – benefits that can help employees make better contributions at work.
Ensuring that your staff members know that they can approach you with suggestions and changes can help your organisation thrive.
Welcome input from all corners of your business
If you want to create an innovative culture, you need to reject corporate hierarchies and tired relics such as organisational charts. Great ideas and out-of-the-box perspectives aren’t limited to business managers and marketing directors – they can originate from every area of your business. Whether it’s scheduling one-on-one time with individual employees or holding regular brainstorming sessions involving your entire team, ensuring that your staff members know that they can approach you with suggestions and changes can help your organisation thrive.
Introduce incentives for creative thinking
It’s likely that you already offer bonuses and incentives for exceeding sales targets or landing high-value client accounts, but what if you rewarded staff members for conceiving an idea that seriously bolsters efficiency or for dreaming up a truly original product? Introducing incentives for creative thinking can fuel employee insights and new ideas. And it’s these initiatives that can help your company differentiate itself in the marketplace and achieve future growth.
From factoring in time for experimentation to rewarding new ideas, making innovation part of your culture calls for a commitment to bending the rules. How are you fostering a culture of innovation?
Neha Kale is a freelance writer and editor who covers business, technology, arts and culture for publications in Australia and overseas.