We welcome the bad ideas, the wacky ideas, the just plain weird ideas: should this be the motto of your workplace? When you’re striving to develop a culture of business innovation, you need to be intentional about your process. How exactly do you encourage people to innovate, particularly if your existing workplace culture is not as creative as you’d like?
1. Be Open
When you’re trying to generate a creative culture, open the doors. Develop ways for your users, your employees, and other companies in completely different areas of business to influence your thinking. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Duke University’s Wesley Cohen has shown that corporate creativity depends upon a firm’s ‘absorptive capacity’ – the ability of its research and development units not just to create innovations but to absorb them from outside sources.” As you discuss ideas in your workplace, don’t try and censor them based on where they come from. Be permeable, and you’ll discover that you’ll absorb new ideas from diverse sources.
2. Give the Opportunity to Grow
Sometimes, encouraging creativity and innovation is as simple as giving people permission to try out their ideas and reach for what they aspire to be. In each position, build in the potential for growth in new directions. Allow your employees to tackle new challenges with your support and shift their job in some of the directions that they wish to go. Check in with your employees during personal job reviews or group meetings and get their frank opinions on where they think their job should move and where their talents would be best utilized. An individual who’s using all of her talents will perform in a more creative, innovative, and committed way.
3. Say Yes
When you’re trying to create an innovative environment, give your employees a way to show that their ideas work. Say yes as often as you can. Give your employees the gift of flexibility. In the earlier days at Google, staff were given 20 percent of their time to spend on innovative side projects that could make a difference. The company chose to invest in employees’ abilities by saying yes to this time. According to Start Us magazine, as companies get older and larger, they tend to “become too rigid and entangled in existing processes and rituals.” If you want to maintain a start-up mindset, find a way to make new and diverse projects a key part of your business workflow.
Communicate, Listen, and Collaborate
Do your employees really listen to each other? As a manager, do you truly encourage collaboration, or do you have a plan and move forward with it, only getting the feedback that suits your plan? As the person in charge, it can be tempting to go with the existing plan or the one that seems best to you. Instead, create a workplace culture that focuses on true communication, listening, and collaboration. Allow your employees to express their ideas and opinions without negative judgment and with less scripting, and you’ll find that you’ll get fruitful suggestions that will help you improve business practices and find new ways to solve problems.
Is your workplace truly friendly to creativity? When you’re aiming to inspire innovation, you need to show business leadership.