It’s a mantra that business leaders have heard 1,000 times before: “Companies must innovate or fail.” The incredible rate at which technology has grown within the last 20 years has shaken the status quo in many workplaces, inspiring some teams to adapt and succeed and others to remain stubborn and fail.
In today’s workplace, where new employees are frequently among those who grew up during this period of rapid technological change, there should be no problem with using new tools and techniques to help drive business. Surprisingly, a lack of employee innovation is a problem which persists in many organizations.
So how exactly can we help to move our organizations forward? To address such a huge question, we first need to look at what it is that stifles innovation in certain companies. According to John Seely Brown, co-chair at the Deloitte Center for the Edge, there are three things which promote an innovative organization:
Organizational Commitment to New Thinking
A Culture Which Supports Innovation
Without these three elements in play, it is nearly impossible for serious innovation to take hold in a company. For now and the near future, innovation is not something that will happen organically. Managers and business owners will need to take action and find ways to encourage the three ingredients listed above.
Keep an Eye on Employee Interactions
To begin nurturing an innovation-friendly environment, monitor new employees and note their interactions with their colleagues in the workplace. What you may notice is that although new employees often enter a company with enthusiasm, energy, and an innovative personality, these traits may fade over time. Managers shouldn’t fall into the trap of assuming these employees are simply “burnt-out”. Instead, realize that company culture is something which often consumes new employees. If the efforts and ideas of new employees are not being matched or met with enthusiasm by co-workers it can be very discouraging. This leads to employees falling into the existing change-averse system persisting at your company.
Set Aside Time for Innovation
Employees will likely be working hard throughout the day and may not want to sacrifice time to try new techniques and tools out. Offer brainstorming sessions and collaborative spaces for employees. A recent study by the European Commission’s Business Innovation Observatory gives a great example of a collaborative workspace. While the image below shows an office space, the ideas presented should be applied to every kind of workforce, including those who work remotely or in the field.
Image courtesy of European Business Commission's Business Innovation Observatory
Lead by Example
The vast majority of employees genuinely want to be the best they can at their respective jobs. Fear of reprimand or failure may be what is limiting innovation within your organization. Leading by example will give employees the confidence to try out new software and take different approaches towards their work. This means creating a welcoming work environment where every employee, from the newest hire to the most senior, feels comfortable trying something new.
Innovation is the future of business. Introducing simplicity and accessibility to existing problems is what has helped some of the biggest companies in the world get to where they are. A stagnant workplace culture is contagious. It creates an image that you, your employees, and your customers will eventually feel a disassociation with. Think carefully about how to make your working environment a more welcoming and innovative place full of eager employees. Success and improved morale will almost certainly follow.
Cam Garrant is the marketing manager at Repsly. Passionate about delivering quality content and data-driven insights, Cam's interests include SEO, basketball, and bad jokes.