Hey Leaders, Listen Up if You're Curious about Driving Innovation in the Workplace
We need to talk about innovation.
Yes, it's the biggest buzzword since "synergy." Even the most unimaginative corporations like to throw it around. But underneath the talking points and corporate buzzword is a concept that you can't afford to ignore.
Driving innovation in the workplace doesn't just help produce competitive products and services—it ensures the organization as a whole can adapt to changing business environments. And while many leaders claim they want their organizations to be more innovative, they don't necessarily always follow through with driving innovation in the workplace at a cultural level.
To get its full benefits, innovation has to become a mindset throughout the entire organization. So listen up, leaders—here are some tips for building that mindset and driving innovation in the workplace like never before.
Tips for Driving Innovation in the Workplace
Building a culture of innovation can seem like a monumental task, especially if you're starting from scratch. However, there are many examples of organizations that have done it successfully, so the answers are out there. Here are a few keys to driving innovation in the workplace just by changing mindsets.
Bottom-Up Innovation, Top-Down Curation
To drive innovation with consistency and focus, it needs to be encouraged from the top-down (that's you, leaders). But, at the same time, leadership needs to cultivate innovation from the bottom-up to harness the organization’s full power.
Unfortunately, this is not how most businesses operate. Employees of most companies tend to think that if something isn't in their job description, there's no reason for them to take responsibility for it. These companies often hire R&D specialists or designated intrapreneurs to develop new products and services. And although specialized innovators in an organization can produce great results, innovation is too important to be left solely to one team.
While dedicated innovation teams have their benefits, they will never match the creative potential of the entire organization's staff combined. When you invite all employees to contribute through an idea management process, don’t be surprised when ideas come pouring out faster than tears during The Notebook movie. With this bottom-up source of innovative ideas, leaders can focus on curating the most worthwhile ones.
Purpose, Not Vision
We used to always hear about the “vision” of great business leaders, but the most innovative companies have shifted to focusing on purpose rather than vision.
What’s the difference? Vision implies a top-down culture where the leader communicates the expected outcome while the rest of the organization just executes it. Purpose, on the other hand, implies a culture based more on values than specific goals. Innovative leaders drive innovation in the workplace by allowing their employees to experiment and find creative solutions to problems—solutions that align with the company’s purpose.
Bottom-up innovation is key to success in a purpose-based culture. Leadership doesn’t get to just sit back and collect all the great ideas, though. Leadership’s role is to set the organization’s purpose and ensure everyone is aware of it. Leaders must sometimes step in to guide ideas and projects to make sure they align with the organization’s values.
Ask What We Should Do—Not What We Can Do
It seems obvious that innovation should be based on the potential benefits it will provide to customers. At many companies though, innovation is still associated with R&D departments focused primarily on technological capability. While technology is key to innovation, it is the tool, not the starting place.
Technology can definitely inspire new ideas, but remember the Law of the Instrument—if you’re holding a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Today, engineers, programmers, and scientists can create just about anything. The important question is not “what can we do?,” but rather the more customer-focused “what should we do?”
Successful innovation happens when engineers, customers, and business leaders work together from the start to identify a problem and find an innovative solution. A cross-functional, interdisciplinary team can ensure that every perspective is covered and any solution proposed will be marketable, feasible, and financially viable.
Driving Innovation in the Workplace With the Tools the Pros Use
Innovation is more than a buzzword, and we need to stop treating it like one. Driving innovation in the workplace is essential if you want to survive in rapidly changing business environments. And while it takes a whole organization to drive innovation in the workplace from the bottom up, setting up your team for success starts at the top.
rready helps business leaders worldwide put their organizations on the path to successful innovation. At the center of our innovation strategy is the KICKBOX program, a proven methodology for generating, collecting, and implementing innovative ideas from those who know your products, services, and customers the best—your employees.