“Innovation” is one of the buzz-wordiest and broadest terms out there, and every company wants more of it. But true innovation isn’t just difficult to achieve, it’s difficult to define.
So what does it mean? Where does it come from? And how do you promote it?
Regardless of what the dictionary says, we view innovation as a term that covers everything associated with creating a healthier bottom-line. From restructuring products or coming up with new ones, cutting costs and improving efficiency, or just making the workplace more enjoyable, you’re looking for new ways to improve and operate more efficiently than the competition.
Unbeknownst to many, most successful internal innovation efforts don’t start at the C-Level, but with your employees. All of them.
Each employee has a unique approach to their workplace responsibilities, and over time their experiences lead them to a multitude of ideas and insights. Problem? Those insights stay stuck in their heads and that’s where they stay, never seeing the light of day due to a lack of motivation to share, fear of rejection, or a lack of communication channels.
So how do you encourage your employees to speak up? Get them talking to each other first!
Without motivating employees to communicate and share with one another, you miss a serious opportunity for them to bounce ideas off of each other, improve the ideas with feedback, and validate them to the point of sharing with management or a superior. These seemingly casual interactions are usually prevented with management’s strict focus on an employee’s core responsibilities, but can be exceedingly powerful for promoting internal innovation from every level of the organization.
But just coming up with ideas is only half the battle. You need a strategy in place to take action!
If you’re serious about promoting change and leveraging the intelligence of your employees, you can’t half-ass it. Put the work in to strengthen your organization’s culture and insure every level of the company is capable of seeding and cultivating innovative ideas and changes. An investment in new initiatives, systems, and roles will probably be necessary, but will pay off in the both short- and long-term as employees start to feel more comfortable communicating, taking chances, and finding new ways to improve operations. From there, you must take action on the most promising ideas to prove that you’re serious about improving the organization.
You might come across some winning ideas, but don’t mope if things don’t work out!
Keep your eyes set on your stated goals and mission, and set milestones to track your progress to achieving your stated objectives, and don’t be afraid to adjust your strategy as you go. Not every internal innovation practice is applicable to every industry or company, and not every new initiative is going to provide a serious benefit to your bottom-line. Still, as long as employees are participating and engaged in the process, there will be a multitude of insights and experiences to learn from and inspire new ideas for implementation.
And once you get to that point, don’t forget to celebrate!
Even if you’re innovative initiatives don’t produce the game-changing bottom-line results you projected, you should still take pride in the efforts of your organization and its workforce. Failure to recognize those efforts, regardless of results, can be crushing for employee morale and prevent them from buying-in in the future. With that said, it may sound like an innovation-minded approach isn’t worth the risk, but it further stresses the importance of creating a culture that promotes collaboration and accountability, and having an idea management software or system that can track the progress of the ideas traveling through the internal innovation funnel.
Is your company ready to promote internal innovation?
Download this free guide to set your innovation program up for success!