Innovation and creativity set you apart from your competition. Companies that encourage their employees to focus on innovation rather than follow archaic procedures have a higher success rate than others. Such firms ensure their employees are encouraged to perform to their best.
Take Google, for example. One of its famous management philosophies, ‘20% time’, suggests that employees should spend 80% of their time on work-related responsibilities and the remaining 20% on their own ideas that they’re passionate about. It’s thanks to this ‘20% time’ that the world has Gmail, AdSense, Orkut and many other popular products.
We can see how Google encouraged employees to come up with innovative ideas by introducing this philosophy in its work culture. That’s the secret. For any organisation to succeed in the long run, its work culture must accommodate the risks and chaos that come with the innovation.
Not every company needs to adopt the ‘20% time’ philosophy, but they can take systematic steps to foster a work culture that focuses on innovation. Through such initiatives, they can stay ahead of their rivals.
Workplaces today have the highest number of generations working together. We have the Baby Boomers (1946-63), Generation X (1964-80), the Millennials (1981-1997) and the latest Generation Z (1998 onward). While Generation Z is expected to step into the workplace from this year onwards, Millennials are already taking over leadership roles in organisations.
Every generation here has its own set of beliefs and works accordingly. The older generations are more patient yet slow to adapt to newer technologies. They work hard to achieve their goals. The younger generations are quite impatient and therefore focus on doing the work more smartly. They make use of all the technologies available to them and ensure their work gets done quickly and more efficiently.
It’s easy to think that this mix of people won’t gel with each other. On the contrary – companies can ensure that they work together and leverage their varied strengths. Thus they will be able to create a far better solution than any one of them could possibly come up with alone.
Walt Disney, for example, uses a variety of programmes, including internships and reverse mentoring, which cater to the needs of a multi-generational workforce. Through these, diversity is embraced, and employees work together better and thrive. (Source: InsideHR)
Initiatives that encourage innovation fall apart when they are not backed by tangible measures to execute the ideas. Today, digitisation of the workplace is happening at a rapid pace. The tools that are used by these digitised teams offer way more than one can imagine. The collaboration that is brought about by cloud-based software is hard to beat. Ensure your team is supported through such tools, as this will ensure the spread of knowledge and collaborative delivery of innovation. Rely not only on software but also the latest hardware technologies that are changing landscapes of the industries.
Collaboration tools won’t mean anything if there is no framework and systematic effort to cultivate innovation. This is where management philosophies like Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) come in handy. By aiming for stretch goals, you are already creating conditions for high engagement.
One of the important aspects of this entire exercise is to ensure a proper mix of all required ingredients. Dominance of one over the other hinders the growth of an innovation mindset. Tools and frameworks are going to be useful only if they are adopted across the whole organisation.
Create a forum for your employees or arrange brainstorming sessions where employees can participate and share their ideas. Let them know that their opinions are valued and that they too can help transform the company. Get them to come up with suggestions about how they can perform their work better and more efficiently. Some may be able to come up with truly pathbreaking ideas or even give solutions that are useful to slightly improve a certain process.
Recognition is one of the most powerful enhancers at the workplace. Make sure you recognise the contribution of these individuals and give them due credit in private, as well as in front of their team. You can even have bi-annual or annual events where you reward these employees. Or offer the winners some perks such as paid vacations, membership to a club of their choice, etc. This will not only encourage them to come up with more ideas but will also motivate others to think more creatively.
Do keep in mind that most of what you’ll hear from your team is going to be incremental innovation. Disruptive innovation is hard to come by, and there are no frameworks that would guarantee it. On the other hand, incremental innovation can happen on a regular basis. Set your and their expectations right to avoid any undue disappointment. In any case, appreciate everyone’s efforts to keep the process intact.
In conclusion, we need to understand that innovation is not just the responsibility of the top management. Every individual in the company needs to be committed to the idea of coming up with innovative ideas – and this can be only achieved by modifying the work culture.
To find out more about the benefits of employing agile methodology in the workplace, download Clearvision’s free white paper The Essential Guide to Agile Business Strategy.