The workplace has evolved from traditional structures and hierarchies. Employee investment and engagement has enabled a dynamic culture, where innovation is celebrated. Employees today benefit from increased flexibilities in a globally connected world. With this development, individuals demand greater stimulation. This in turn propels a wealth of creativity, sharing and consequent growth.
Leaders in business today are constantly trialling various strategies and solutions, designed to foster innovation and motivation.
Old methods of compensation and perks are not enough to drive a powerful workforce. People want to be involved, to be trusted and given responsibility. Hire smartly and this can be a huge benefit. Putting the decisions into the hands of the experts you hired means a team of partners can grow a successful entrepreneurship.
New methods and structures range from crowd-sourcing ideas, adopting flat structures, rejecting prevailing practices. Today some companies even reject job titles, embracing fluidity and opting for team-based initiatives. The old days of the intense interactions of Apple’s Mac engineers or Canon’s radical organizational restructure have been replaced by hackathons and theories of Holacracy.
Academics have explored various theories behind the cultivation of innovation. Innovation, being the process in which new information is created. This ultimately comes down to the people, the business structures and runs parallel to the journey of the individual within a company.
We spoke to industry leaders to gain insights from their experiences, key to defining the approaches essential for fostering innovation in the workplace.
Step 1: Create a powerful culture.
The most inspiring aspect of a company has to come down to it’s overall culture. The ultimate role of the employee and how they are engaged with the company vision will ultimately set the tone for innovation. Focus on the essence of the core company values and how to share these.
“It’s never a process, it’s the culture. It needs to be open, never personal.” – Raveen Sastry, Nudgespot.
Step 2: Employees as stakeholders.
Hire leaders of innovation, individuals with passion and a chemistry with the business. This has to be an exchange. Employees today want to see their ideas valued and their initiatives implemented. Companies are continuously trialling new methods to invest in employees, such as bootstrapped solutions and partnerships, where the individual is financially invested. Ultimately this will boil down to the investment in an idea.
“Whilst it is my neck on the line my employees are stakeholders in the final outcome. I encourage them to take risks, I throw a lot of stuff at them.” – Scott Rummler, ESPforME.
Step 3: Develop habits of autonomy and flexibility, with responsibility.
With an expert team and a well-defined culture, habits of autonomy and flexibility allowing employees responsibility should come naturally. Set the tone for space of innovation, reduce inefficient and constraining processes and take the leap.
“I am stand by the old saying, necessity is the mother of invention. I don’t believe that encouraging your employees to innovate will yield anything positive, however, encouraging your employees to be proactive by giving them full responsibility over their own projects will eventually lead to innovation.
If you treat your employees like one-trick-ponies, and narrow their professional scope, they are unlikely to become innovative. If you help them develop a wide array of skills, and instil a sense of responsibility over their own projects or areas of responsibility, giving them freedom on how they tackle problems along the way, the likeliness of innovation increases vastly.” – Alon Rajic, Finofin LTD.
Step 4: Act now.
Lead by example. As a leader if the above stages have been set as standards of working practice then you need to take initiative and keep an open mind. Innovation is not an on-demand tap. It can happen in a variety of ways, exemplified on all levels. Start to share your ideas and listen to those of your team.
“Everyone thinks of innovation at different times, not on-demand, it can happen at any moment and can’t be forced. As a leader you need to create an accepting space, for the flow of ideas and take a step back.” – Uri Alexandrovitz, WorldClass.
“I think a lot of us tend to wait for that eureka moment before trying to act. I believe it’s very common for people to get great ideas all of the time, and it’s even more common for them to be dismissed as small little ideas that aren’t worth diving into.
If you’d like to start a software company, your first step should be to go start a software company and go build some software. If you’d like to innovate and build new products, you should go be innovative and start building new products. Do small things, be willing to fail and try again. Once you’re in this habit, the next time you get a little idea to pursue, the barrier to action will be much lower.” – Jude Allred, Fog Creek Software.
Cover pic : The Office (B. J. Novak, Rainn Wilson, Steve Carell, John Krasinski, and Jenna Fischer)