Overview: Innovation strategy needs more than just a great kickoff meeting. To foster innovation, the entire organization needs to be involved, have access to the needed resources to innovate, and see their innovations celebrated across the company. Here are nine drivers of innovation.
1. Dedicated Resources
The first place to start, with building an innovative culture, is to have dedicated funding and resources for innovation. This can be as simple as setting time aside once a month in a small company to discuss ideas and feedback, or it can be about creating an entire department, complete with a Chief Innovation Officer, to make it happen.
Either way, feeding your innovative spirit will yield results. And committing resources to innovation announces its value; “putting your money where your mouth is” will communicate that this is important.
2. Involvement from Everyone
The best and most effective innovation draws from the entire organization. It’s especially important for innovation strategy because it’s often those with some distance from an idea who can spot potential risks and errors, which can be corrected before going further.
It also reinforces value and taps into nascent creativity. Encouraging everyone to join an online platform, submit a suggestion, or even just offer feedback on an idea draws them closer and encourages them to think creatively. This yields benefits up and down the line as people think more carefully about what they do, and why they do it.
3. Creation of Tools And Processes The Entire Team Can Use
One great way to bring more people into the fold is to make the tools and processes involved in innovation open ones for your entire organization. At the most basic level, this ensures that if an idea is considered and set aside, people are able to look it up, see why it had to be filed away for now, and possibly address those concerns.
It also allows for those to be applied in new and creative ways that you might not expect. Being able to brainstorm ideas, understanding how to test them, and workshopping the results to refine approaches are useful concepts for any organizations as new challenges and technologies arise.
4. Multiple Perspectives
While some people will come to you, excited to share their ideas, others may struggle with either their own value or a belief that the work they do isn’t “relevant” to innovation. This is a common attitude among both diverse staff and among people in “overhead” departments like finance or facility maintenance.
Make an active effort to recruit these people and get their perspective. For one thing, it’s just good for the organization to know their work and their contributions are valued. For another, the more perspectives you have on an idea, the more polished and effective the end result will be.
5. Thinking Beyond Products
Similarly, work against the “Next iPhone” mentality. We too often measure innovation by how world-changing or flashy an idea is. You often see this with tech companies that will proclaim they’ve built, yes, the “Next iPhone.”
And there’s certainly value in big ideas. However, there’s also value in incremental innovation, changes to processes and the way daily business gets done that saves money, time, and frustration. In particular, look for ideas that challenge the mindset of tradition. Just because something has “always been done that way” doesn’t mean it remains the most effective approach.
6. Encouraging Innovative Teams to Form
Giving innovative teams space to think, expand, and learn is key to getting their best ideas. However, this can be difficult with widely spread organizations, or ones with tight silos where only work on a specific product or department gets done.
Work to encourage cross-department and cross-team collaboration by providing ways for these teams to form. Online platforms, for example, can draw together people of a similar mindset to start working together on ideas, giving each other feedback, and drawing from each other’s energy.
7. Building Spaces, Real and Virtual, To Innovate In
Not every office needs a coffee bar to sit and chew over ideas. And not every office, as we move into the future of work, even has a physical location. Yet creating spaces for brainstorming can yield real, positive results.
Start with physical spaces; create places with whiteboards, note pads, and other tools that teams can use to bat around ideas and create new approaches. Look for virtual spaces as well, such as in your company’s chat tools or intranet, where employees can take notes, hang out, and chew over problems. You might even email out challenges and encourage them to ask friends what they think the best solution is.
8. Promoting, Supporting and Treasuring Innovation
When somebody has a great idea, or makes the lives of their colleagues easier in some way, everyone in the company should know about it. Sure, everyone likes praise and being rewarded for their efforts, but this also communicates the value of innovation.
Innovation thrives on transparency. Everyone should be able to determine where ideas came from, why those ideas were suggested, and to see how innovation strategy was applied to refine and create something finished from the idea.
Be sure to center what the idea achieved for individual employees as well as who had the idea. If your group has to fill out less paperwork, commit less of their budgets to a fixed cost, or has a new product feature that brought a client from a maybe to a contract, that’s inspiring for everyone.
9. Valuing Innovation At The Top
The values of an executive suite are communicated down through the rest of the organization. This can express itself in all sorts of ways, big and small, but even the flattest managerial structure has people who are looked up to and who lead the way on values.
That makes leadership promoting and valuing innovation crucial to any innovation strategy. In addition to talking about innovation, they should be pointing people towards the tools, offering feedback on relevant ideas, and leading by doing when it comes to innovation.
If you’re looking to build a better innovation strategy, we can help. Our tools help great teams create great ideas.