In the last two decades, humanity has made more progress than in the previous century alone. That says one thing about innovation- it’s inevitable. Cultivating an innovation culture is a must to ensure that your company can leave its mark.
According to the Government of New Zealand, innovation can be defined as:
The creation, development, and implementation of a new product, process, or service improve efficiency, effectiveness, or competitive advantage.
Predictably, innovation has become a priority for many businesses:
- Innovative ideas and processes can turn a business into a differentiator.
- Innovation seems to be a strong reason why people want to work at a particular company.
- Innovative corporate culture is proven to make people happier, engaged, and more productive.
However, it’s easier said than done. Numerous factors are at play in bringing about new changes—some more evident than others.
In this article, we’ll attempt to highlight the steps to create a culture of creativity and innovation.
Things You Need To Know About Creativity And Innovation
Everything comes at a cost, including creativity. Unlike other business operations, the innovation process is not mapped out. That in itself leaves a lot of room for error.
While each company promotes innovation projects, the following basics get overlooked:
- Innovation is not a one-person thing. Creativity exists in everyone- just in different forms and abilities.
- That being said, not everyone will seek to utilize their creativity at work.
- Diversity and inclusion is an essential part of innovation.
- It requires space, freedom, and time for innovation to happen.
- Successful innovation will see multiple failures.
What Exactly Is Innovation Culture?
Innovation culture is a mindset. It lies in the day-to-day activities that an employee or leader undertakes. Even the most menial of tasks can be elevated through the means of innovation.
Take, for example, the global giant Unilever. To combat hiring biases, Unilever announced an immersive AI program to help them fine-tune the recruiting process.
Instead of sending CVs and cover letters, applicants complete a series of mental games to assess individuals’ traits. The qualified candidates then take part in recorded interviews, which are analyzed using machine learning algorithms.
This example well reflects the power of innovation. Innovation is the foundation of the development towards a fair, respectable, and more enriching organizational culture.
To sum up, an innovation culture promotes continuous organizational change. It prioritizes developing ideas, strategies, and skills of both workers and executives.
5 Ways To Build An Innovation Culture
Even the most creative people would be hesitant to show their skills in a workplace that doesn’t want to evolve. To inspire innovation in teams and team members, here are some practical tips for you to use:
1. Psychological Safety
An employee may come up with a brilliant idea but be reluctant to share it with the team members and the boss. The reason? Fear of not having the support they need.
A total lack of psychological safety will make all your innovation efforts go down the drain. An uncanny fear will stifle employees and their creative streaks.
People will most certainly be afraid to step out of their comfort zones.
A psychologically unsafe workplace will not only hamper innovation but also affect engagement, productivity, and morale. Eventually, employees will start to leave, and the employee turnover rate will skyrocket.
Luckily, the signs of such a company culture are easy to spot.
- Employees rarely share any new ideas or thoughts.
- General lack of enthusiasm at work.
- Gossip, favoritism, and conflicts seem to take center stage.
- The turnover rate is unusually high.
To foster innovation, it’s necessary that people feel psychologically safe to bring their authentic selves to work. When employees feel the freedom to be who they are, they are more likely to put forward better ideas. Also, take more calculated risks, and contribute more to their team goals.
2. Encourage Side Projects
Did you know that the hugely popular free images site Unsplash was developed as a side project by Crew? And that Crew was almost running out of money when Unsplash took off? This is such a great example of innovation and tenacity that I love to include wherever I can.
When people utilize their creativity, great things happen. Gmail and Youtube are Google’s side projects and changed the course for humanity (at least for millennials). There are multiple reasons why side projects are beneficial to everyone.
For employees, they get the chance to work at something that they love. People will start to be more engaged, creative and actually look forward to coming to work. The increased autonomy gives employees a feeling of empowerment and more confidence in their abilities.
For leaders, providing side-project options will demonstrate a higher degree of commitment and morale in the employees. As a result, the feelings of loyalty and confidence will grow towards the company. These positives will ultimately boost their performance during their regular work schedule.
3. Innovation Processes
Sometimes innovation needs a push in the right direction. Today’s companies use multiple innovation processes to ensure that people are constantly working on their creative abilities and skills. An example of this is how many tech companies conduct infamously tough hackathons such as Facebook Hackathon.
Customized workshops and boot camps are also popular to influence creativity in teams. In these events, each group is given a problem to solve and is given a period (usually 2-3 days) to develop a legitimate solution.
These teams generate several ideas, select the most probable one, test the framework conditions, and build prototypes.
Innovation can not only be driven by the right ideas. It needs to be guided by the required creativity techniques and individual skills.
Upskilling, learning, and development are the trifecta of boosting an innovators’ performance. Leaders need to ensure that workers are provided all three of these factors to enhance their sense of innovation and creativity.
Given the proper training through the required workshops, employees will gather the relevant information and skills to transform their ideas into reality. It will encourage them to enhance their work performance while showcasing their creative talents.
Rewards and recognition have proved to be an excellent motivator when it comes to employees. People want to be respected and rewarded for their work. The need for recognition is further intensified when it comes to new innovations. Giving people their due credit is a necessary step that companies should not ignore.
Capture the innovative actions that employees do on a day-to-day basis. Issue a company-wide statement detailing the task and publicly thank the employee. Not only will this inspire the employee to improve his or her performance, but it will also set a precedent for the behaviors you want others to display.
While everyone wants to create an innovation culture, it will require time, effort, and encouragement on your part. Does your company use any new techniques to promote creativity and innovation? Let us know in the comments below.