So what does it take to generate innovation?
Once you have built an innovation culture and fostered an innovative team, you might think you’re set up for innovation. But there’s one more thing you need to do!
Innovation happens within the context of your organization’s processes. People will innovate new ways of doing what you already do, in addition to coming up with entirely new ideas.
And as you innovate, your processes need to fit the new ideas. Here are three elements to consider when you want to generate innovation.
1. Create paths for information to flow.
To generate innovation, information needs to flow smoothly throughout your team. Innovation can spark from anywhere!
What about your customer service team? Track the topics they hear the most frequently, and make sure that information is getting back to relevant departments. You might need to improve your product or just change the documentation or training.
Your sales and delivery teams can be an invaluable source of information. They tend to stay close to prospects and clients, and they often have ideas for improving your products, services, and messaging.
Don’t forget to create channels for information to flow internally. New employees can provide feedback and suggestions for improving your hiring and onboarding process. Your lowest-level employees often have ideas for more efficient ways to do their jobs. Receptionists and office managers tend to have broad perspectives of what’s going on and may have ideas for improvement in a variety of areas.
Finally, ensure that you create multiple channels for information to filter back from prospects and clients. Your product and service teams will need to know what works and what doesn’t work so they know where to innovate. You can get this information from feedback surveys as well as conversations with prospects and clients. You might even consider creating feedback or testing panels.
As you implement innovations, make sure to communicate both internally and externally about what’s happening and how it will affect people. Let your customers and clients know what’s going on, and make sure your internal team is always a step ahead of external messaging.
2. Encourage regular feedback.
Speaking of feedback, consistent and accurate feedback is critical to generate innovation and support ongoing innovation. Both internal and external feedback help identify areas for improvement.
While feedback can spark innovation, it’s even more important when you are implementing changes.
As you roll out innovations, both big and small, collect feedback as you determine whether to continue moving forward. Feedback can be active or passive.
For some ideas, you might consider A/B testing two similar options. This requires some effort to set up, but then you can simply track user behavior and see which people prefer.
Alternately, feedback surveys, interviews, and market research all drive more direct and intentional feedback. This can be costlier, but generally provides rich data you can use.
Within your team, employee engagement and other surveys can spark ideas and generate innovation.
3. Distinguish between policies and best practices.
When you are looking to innovate within an existing process, it’s important to distinguish between policies and best practices. What parts of your process can’t be changed, and where is there more flexibility?
For example, consider a sales team with a clearly defined sales process. There will likely be policies for when and how to capture leads in the CRM system, when and how to convert them to opportunities, and how to track their lead and opportunity status.
But within that process, there could be a lot of room for innovation. Individual sales reps might have complete flexibility to look for leads wherever they want. Alternately, you might clearly define territories.
Some organizations provide templates for specific aspects of the sales process, such as presentations and proposals. Other organizations allow more flexibility and customization.
Your pricing model might be set in stone, you could allow reps to be flexible within a range, or you could let them sell for any price they can get.
Make sure that your team understands which parts of the process are policies and where you are letting them innovate. Confusion can lead to significant frustration if your team feels that you’re constantly shutting them down.
And don’t forget to review your policies and look for areas to innovate! Just because a process is working right now doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement.
Ideas to generate innovation?
Share your ideas to generate innovation in the comments.