How to Create a Culture of Innovation
By helping to foster and support innovation in your small business, your employees could become more creative and productive than ever before
Innovation can be surprisingly easy to cultivate, provided that you’re giving it the conditions it needs to thrive. Without innovation, any business will be left in the dust. The sky is the limit when it comes to creativity, and the seeds you need to plant may already be dormant in the minds of your employees. By making small changes that encourage a creative mindset, your employees will naturally feel compelled to share their ideas.
Keep the conversation channels open
If you want the gears in someone’s brain to turn, you’ll need to ask them questions. If workplace conversation is strictly limited to the tasks that need to be completed, no one will be inspired to explore new possibilities. Keep everyone talking. Have meetings frequently, and encourage feedback.
Show your employees that their voices count by implementing changes based on that feedback. By allowing your employees to shape the place in which they work, you’re changing the way they relate to their job. They’ll start exploring their day-to-day tasks from new angles.
Create the perfect office
Drab offices may keep costs down, but they don’t help employees maximize their creative thinking skills. If your office is dull and full of buzzing fluorescent lights, it’s time to hit up Gumtree for some place vibrant with lots of windows. You want your employees to feel welcome and comfortable in their workspace.
Decorate your office, and encourage employees to make themselves at home. They should feel as though the space belongs just as much to them as it does to you. This will help them understand that they’re all important, and their ideas matter.
Empower your employees
Employees feel valued when their superiors demonstrate how much they trust them. Rather than micromanaging your employees, allow them to make some of the decisions on their own. They probably know their jobs better than you do – after all, they perform those duties every day.
If they’re allowed to utilize their own methods, this will jumpstart a natural process of experimentation that can easily evolve into workplace innovation. Observe how empowered employees work when left to their own devices, and allow them to use their strengths to improve the way your office runs.
Keep your employees happy. A happy employee feels motivated and passionate about his or her job. Celebrate all of the successes you achieve together. Reward key players for their out-of-the-box methods.
Send the message that creativity will always win, and the contributions of your employees genuinely matter. This incentivizes innovation. Everyone will want their piece of the pie – all you have to do is be willing to give it to them when they’ve earned it.
Abandon your fear of risks
You can’t innovate without taking a few risks. Some innovations will prove to be more trouble than they’re worth, and others won’t work at all. This is a normal part of the process. You’ll need to implement ideas without the certainty that they’re going to make a positive impact.
You may feel that cautiousness is an ideal quality in a businessperson, but being cautious never changes the world. Even when you’ve taken a risk that didn’t play out the way you wanted it to, you’ve still learned something.
You’d be surprised to learn how many of the most innovative ideas and products out there were created by pure chance or accident. Think penicillin or microwave. But in order for your team to embrace the risks that are part of the innovation process, you need to teach them that failure is an option.
In fact, failure should be openly acknowledged for what it is – a step that takes you closer to success. Innovation can’t happen without your team striving to try new things and embracing failure.
Introduce a flat management structure
There are many benefits to a flat management structure. Instead of getting frustrated because of long approval processes and problematic lines of communication, your employees will be able to focus on what matters – creativity and innovation. If it’s impossible to introduce that type of management at your organization, do your best to empower your employees to act independently.
No office is going to become a factory of innovation overnight. It’s all about making small changes and allowing your employees to use their imaginations a little more than you usually would. It may be a slow process but it has a big payoff.
Kelly Smith works at Career FAQs, a resource for many online business courses. She’s interested in marketing trends and new ideas for healthy work environments.