Inspiring innovation among the employees regardless of their job titles and responsibilities is almost always a challenge. Innovation, however, cannot be ignored since the competition thrives on such. Without changes that drive innovations, your products, services, practices and your brand itself will eventually become obsolete. How can you streamline your people’s creativity? Leaders listen; here’s how.
1) Give them a say
Listen to what your employees have to say. Let them feel that their ideas matter to encourage sharing on their part. Your responsibility revolves around building a culture of acceptance. It is in this culture whereby employees will realize the importance of voicing out their suggestions and concerns. Whenever they have an idea, they won’t keep it to themselves. They will share it with their colleagues instead to solicit their opinion regarding it.
2) Make time for it
While some productive breakthroughs occur extempore, regular brainstorming of ideas would certainly help. Put it on a calendar; let’s say, every first Monday of the month. In this way also, your employees would know what is expected of them. Let the team meet face to face for instant feedback on an idea. During the meeting, encourage everyone to speak so that all people will have a say on an idea.
3) Give them a chance
Aside from tapping the collective intelligence of your people, you also have to drill at the individual level. Crowdsource. Chances are, when new projects are up, the same old people will tackle them. Thus, try delegating a project to a new team, if possible, to exalt open innovation. And, this is also a great way to encourage a collaborative environment.
4) Let them collaborate
Building on encouraging a collaborative environment, did you know that the best ideas usually sprung from collaborations? One of you employees might have an idea, but it will be just an idea until your other employees offer their own ideas to expand upon and fill all the necessary details. If you really need to formalize the process, group your staff into teams and offer a reward to those teams who can bring forward the most feasible idea.
5) Tap into passions
Employees won’t participate in an initiative that doesn’t excite them in anyhow. Thus, try to learn about their passions and incorporate them into the business. You may not know it, but a staff’s passion for photography is just what the company needs to attract more visitors. For instance, you may offer product photography sessions for free or at a discounted price as part of the web design and development package. Capitalize on what your people possess.
6) Prioritize an inviting workplace
If the work environment feels like a prison cell, more likely, your employees will feel like imprisoned by their 9 to 5 job! If possible, make it cozy. Have you heard of Googleplex? Yes, it is that complex that houses swimming pools, sand volleyball courts, and cafeterias provided for free to the Google employees. Perhaps, not that ambitious, but you get the point.
7) Give them a break
Work, work, and work without play makes Jacks and Jills really dull boys and girls. It still holds true today despite the proliferation of virtual teams. This doesn’t mean extending the breaktimes, but give them something that breaks the status quo. A perfect example is themed days wherein the staff can be superheroes for a day. Anything that will be fun out of the routinary life of your people will do.
8) Express appreciation
Gratitude goes a long way. That’s a fact. So, don’t skimp on praises when your employees are doing well on their jobs. You may not know it, but at times, all an employee needs is a pat on the back. Or, it could be a handwritten thank-you note. Free lunch, anyone? Whichever, the idea is letting your staff that you acknowledge their present contributions, and they would likely feel to contribute more.
9) Celebrate mistakes and failures, too
Aside from celebrating the small wins, you should also celebrate the mistakes that your people commit. No, wait, it doesn’t mean to celebrate with free pizza as well. Instead, recognize the mistake committed as a fundamental part of learning and growing as individuals and as a team. Don’t criticize, but remind them that rising from each failure triumphantly means getting closer to success.
10) Provide them with feedback
Creating, expanding and sharing one’s idea is an effort. And, some people are actually looking for confirmation whether his or her idea is okay, implementable, adds value to the organization, life-changing and so on or not. With this, there must be a feedback system that comes with the process. You cannot just solicit ideas from your people without having a system to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of such innovative ideas. That person wants to receive feedback on the idea that he or she just shared.
Over to you
In achieving outstanding achievements, your people needs to be heard, appreciated and challenged. Being heard means not just listening to what your staff needs to say, but also doing something about the idea that that staff brought forward. Being appreciated is all about celebrating small success, aside from the big, game-changing wins. Being challenged means introducing varieties to break away from the often-boring routines.
Leaders need to see the impact of innovation on the business, but not actually in the form of driving competition and pushing boundaries. Staying relevant is a challenge and the same goes for being complacent, both of which easily erode the business model. Hence, don’t be comfortable with what you know and what you are doing well. Set your eyes on doing things exponentially better than what it is now, so the business will not lose its significance in the industry.
These are the things that your people needs to understand. Through clarifying the mission, they will rise to the occasion by constantly generating innovative ideas that make the processes and practices even better than what they are now. Let them know what is expected of them, so they too won’t stale and work on thinking of ways to add value to the organization as a whole. That’s how you innovate at the individual level!
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