Identifying and embracing new ideas is a challenge for many businesses, especially those businesses who have not made this a key focus of their culture.
This can be a major source of frustration for business leaders who realise that in order for the company to be as successful as it can be, it must be able to evolve at least as fast as the business environment they are in does.
One of the challenges is to find an effective way to encourage ideas that can lead to improvements.
Simply asking for ideas and encouraging people to give ideas generally isn’t sufficient to make meaningful inroads.
With this is mind (and having similar challenges to other business owners), I have done some research on what businesses that are good at fostering innovation do differently.
To keep this note clean and flowing, I won’t bore you with the long detail, but I have written a summary of the main points of those companies that have been successful in fostering innovation.
In order to foster innovation, a business must encourage and facilitate an environment of:
- rewarding risk taking (this will be a challenge)
It is important for people to know that they don’t have to be right or have all of the answers (or else they won’t feel free to be curious).
The foundation of innovation starts with learning, the pattern is:
- encourage people to ‘ask questions’ – it will help you to innovate
- this should ‘create curiosity’
- with the goal of hopefully ‘encourage risk taking’
Guidelines to foster this in a business:
1. Make learning a priority:
- have formal learning systems, combining both technical and non-technical personal growth
- encourage people to undertake their own development in areas that interest them
- assign people accountability partners or mentors to check in on them and keep them accountable
2. When in doubt – ‘test it out’:
- Don’t assume it won’t work
- Don’t assume it won’t be accepted
- Don’t assume that management won’t go for it
- Don’t accept someone saying ‘that’s not how it is done here’
- Don’t worry If it doesn’t work – everyone would have learned something
3. Measure ‘Return on Intelligence’:
- Track and share the new ideas – good and bad
- Highlight the impact the new ideas or innovations are having processes, costs, customers and the business