While the idea of an annual hack-athon or company ideation competition can appeal as a great idea for many organizations attempting to keep up, in a lot of cases, this concept can be a bit overdone. The same can be said for the concept of ‘innovation’ being a silo-ed activity that only a bunch of jean-and-t-shirt-wearing employees can engage in.
Innovation is typically aimed at coming up with new ideas fast. However, to come up with ideas fast, you need to reach a bit deep into an organisation’s culture and ask the important question: are we setting up a culture where everyone has the ability to be innovative?
Here are 5 tips for developing a culture where everyone can contribute to innovation.
1. Set a Vision
Have a clear vision for innovation and share it with all employees in your organisation. I’m sure you’ve heard of the old saying, ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’ – while the ongoing quest for innovation may not be a problem, understand that at a foundational level, people (employees) love to contribute and make a difference; they just need to know how to get involved so sharing a vision for innovation is the ideal start for getting your people onboard.
You can develop and share a vision for innovation which should include:
A target (percentage or revenue) for new or enhanced products/services that your organisation has set as a goal.
A target (percentage or revenue) for reducing operating costs through innovation.
2. What’s not going so well?
Innovation is not just about new revenue or shiny new products to the market; it is also about reducing operational costs, driving efficiencies and managing risk more appropriately. To get this done, you need to answer the following questions:
Where are the pain areas internally or externally that are constantly turning up?
What are the themes that customers or employees are struggling with and what is the long term outlook or benefit to the organisation if these areas continue to be ignored?
Also, giving permission to employees to call out pain points can work as inputs for innovation. This is because it helps employees to speak out on areas of challenges and ask questions that can drive the organisation forward.
3. It’s the little things that matter
While it’s easy to focus on spending millions of dollars on transformation in order to attract and please customers, it’s often the little things that can irritate or delight customers. It may be as simple as a change to a call centre script but when it is connected with an experience – it counts. Read the article ‘Little things that Destroy Your Customer Experience’ that outlines 20 irritating items:
4. Lead from the Top
The executive need to be constantly championing an innovation culture: this can be as simple as shining the light on how internal and external innovation case studies have impacted the organisation.
"Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower." – Steve Jobs
5. Encourage people to do what they love
Everyone has a passion. When people are doing what they love, creativity will kick in naturally. Find a mechanism to ensure people are as closely aligned to their passion as possible.
An innovation culture doesn’t just appear out of the sky. It takes the team effort of both the executives and the employees. The leaders need to see the potential in their employees, groom the employees according to their passion and set priorities to enable the company and employees stay on track with the set vision for innovation.
When you allow employees speak up and ask questions, they can focus on what’s important which is innovation and rank the company or brand higher than its competitors. Speak with customers, find out their pain areas and make the required changes in those areas. This way, your organization can prioritize innovation and move your company forward.