What would it mean to you to have an innovation culture?
Are you picturing something already?
Maybe it’s constant improvement, developing solutions even before clients know they need them. Or maybe it’s driving your industry or even changing the world.
Whatever an innovation culture means to you, there are three key components.
1. Empower your team.
When you want to develop a culture that encourages innovation, the most important element is empowerment. People need to know they are allowed (and even encouraged!) to innovate.
Empowerment happens in many ways. One key element is to show that you are able to accept failure. Any innovation culture will experience failures and being able to deal with them is critical. Establish clear boundaries for risk and accept that within those boundaries, failure is acceptable.
On a related note, it’s important to show trust. People need to know that you believe in them, support their ideas, and are willing to take a risk. This doesn’t mean that you can’t challenge people, but you need to give them room to grow their ideas and sometimes fail.
Another way to empower your team is to celebrate both ideas and results. If you trust people and know that failures will sometimes happen, you can’t only celebrate the ideas that work out. Recognize great ideas, even when they don’t end up as you’d hoped. Look for lessons to learn and move on to the next great idea.
2. Encourage open communication.
Communication is foundational to an innovation culture. Ideas need to move quickly up and down the funnel, and you need clear lines of communication as you evaluate and implement ideas.
Within your innovation culture, develop your team’s ability to challenge ideas constructively. People shouldn’t be afraid to point out areas for improvement, but they need to be able to do it without tearing their colleagues down.
A Sales PlayBook, such as Collavia®, can be a great space to communicate regarding innovation. Consider creating a forum where people can share their ideas and respond to their colleagues’ ideas with feedback and new ideas of their own. You might also set up a blog where you share updates on innovations you have decided to realize.
As you implement innovations, make sure that you are keeping your entire team in the loop. Many people find change disruptive, and the better you communicate throughout the change the better they will respond. Develop a change management plan that includes multiple methods of communication.
3. Establish a supportive environment.
One visible part of your culture is the way people work and interact day to day. To build an innovation culture, you need to ensure that your environment is structured to support it.
Workspace & Tools
For example, if you have an open-plan office with a lot of visual and audial disruption, it may be difficult for people to find the mental space for innovation. Setting aside some quiet spaces can resolve that issue.
Make sure you have the right tools on hand that might encourage collaboration and innovation. Things like whiteboards, flip charts, and other collaboration tools can give people space when they are working together to brainstorm and innovate.
Look into Collavia and other online collaboration platforms you might use to encourage innovation. It’s important to avoid overloading your team with platforms, but it’s also important to have spaces where your team can exchange ideas, share feedback, and build together. In some environments, simple tools like suggestion boxes or a dedicated email address can collect innovative ideas from the team.
Culture & Expectations
Finally, make sure people have the time to innovate. If people’s schedules are completely full just managing their existing work, they won’t be able to brainstorm, collaborate, or innovate. Google’s “20% time,” where employees are allowed to use 20% of their time to work on their own ideas, may be unrealistic for your environment, but figure out how much time you can provide to allow your team to innovate. And remember that bigger blocks of time (like one day or afternoon a month) are generally more productive than hour-long time blocks every few days.
If your team has an unhealthy work/life balance, they can end up burned out, which reduces creativity and stifles innovation. Work to establish appropriate habits and expectations. One key is to model good habits yourself. If you consistently stay late and work weekends, your team will feel that they need to do the same. Time spent relaxing and investing in friends, family, personal development, and hobbies will spark creativity and innovation.
Ideas for building an innovation culture?
Share your ideas in the comments!