How encouraging employee creativity to meet your innovation goals

Encouraging and retaining creativity among employees is a necessity for innovation-oriented companies.                                                               

Carter Liebscher|
July 8, 2020

Innovation management isn’t simply managing the end product: It’s fostering the growth of the entire innovation timeline, from creative inception to market-ready solution.

Creativity and innovation go hand-in-hand. Creativity pushes the boundaries of innovation across markets, industries, and cultures; innovation is the tangible output of creativity.

As such, while creativity needs innovation and vice versa, the two aren’t necessarily synonymous. Think of creativity as the starting point and innovation as the implementation roadmap: The former can happen anywhere within your organization, but the latter only happens with collective effort.

Some companies view others that value creativity—from the obvious Johnson & Johnson to the less obvious Chobani—and try to capture that same energy from their employees. However, creativity isn’t always a spout. Novel ideas crop up sporadically, often from the places you least expect them.

The key is to recognize encourage employee creativity regularly and implement a plan to act on them. In other words, the key is to build a Culture of Innovation.

How, then, do you encourage creative thinking at a foundational level, and how do you turn those creative ideas into actionable, achievable, and successful innovations?

Design thinking has been gaining popularity for a few years now, and it’s easy to see why: The tools and processes the framework provides helps sidestep employees’ (and companies’) inherent risk aversion.

The linear structure of design thinking guides employees along in the innovation process, helping them to move past steps they might get stuck on in a less formal innovation process. From clearly defining the problem your organization is facing to testing any and all solutions your employees offer, conducting design thinking workshops will help instill into employees the process by which creative ideas become innovations—market-ready products or services that will give you a leg up over your competitors.

Holding design thinking workshops, however, can be a challenge, even with a devoted, internal innovation team. You can book a free demo with us today to learn how we can help.

Looking at an employee’s day-to-day tasks, you might not see a time slot for learning—about the latest happenings in their discipline, about your org’s competitors, about a new program that could actually assist them in their daily responsibilities.

It’s through no fault of their own. In a 2018 survey from LinkedIn, it was found that what’s holding employees back from continued learning is employees’ already busy days. Considering that 94% of those surveyed employees would stay with a company if it invested in their continued professional development, it’s worth it to allot some time to learn and share their learnings with each other.

Google’s 20% time is probably the most well-known example of an organization setting aside time for its employees to make their own discoveries and work on personal projects—even if it’s currently more of an aim than a constant practice.

Your organization, however, can take the aims of 20% time and apply it appropriately to your own organization. That may mean actively scheduling time for individual or collective learning, as through meetings or prospective collaborations between usually disparate departments. It could even be something less intimidating, like Rise’s lunch and learns, which coworkers can share their tricks and tips in a low-stakes environment.

Granted, your most engaged employees may already be developing their skills on their own, whether it’s on company time or in their free time. If your organization doesn’t act on what those employees are learning, however, you can be sure they’ll go somewhere that will.

There’s no better way to get employee buy-in than including them in the problem-solving process.

Employees who have a hand in offering solutions feel that their employer values them, whether or not their solution is the one that ultimately gets acted upon.

Idea management software makes this process easy for both employees and internal stakeholders, especially now in the age of remote work.

Tapping into your employees’ existing creativity allows others to feel psychologically safe to share their own, building a Culture of Innovation in your organization from the ground up.

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