Businesses such as Google, Facebook and Apple have worked really hard to instil a culture of innovation within their organisations. They know this is important as it gives them what they need to get ahead, and stay ahead of the competition. What is the ‘culture’ bit about? It is not too difficult to get staff to innovate for half an hour or an hour – with direction. However, for that innovation to be sustainable it must become part of the makeup of the organisation. This cannot be achieved overnight – however by following some very simple steps you can set yourself on the right path.
1. Share your vision
The first step is to tell your workforce about the change you want to make. They need to understand why it is important for the organisation and how it will be beneficial for them within their roles.
2. Change how you do things
Perhaps a cliché saying, but a good one – “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. If your organisation is process driven, with a rigid hierarchy and clear parameters for communication, I expect innovation is non-existent.
3. Hire and fire the right people
The first thing to tell you is that when the people in an organisation never change, stagnation can occur. In fact in extreme cases it can lead to groupthink – where there is limited productive conflict and discussion as employees have very similar mind-sets. Hire in people who are natural innovators, and where there are people that are a hindrance to change, figure out if they have a future within your organisation.
4. Mix things up
Spark innovation by doing things differently. For example ask people to switch seats, speak to people they have never spoken to before, stand up during meetings rather than sit down, conduct one to ones in the park rather than indoors. These are just a few examples, which of course will not be appropriate for all organisations – however they should give you an idea of the types of things you can try to instigate innovation.
If we go back to the innovative businesses in the introduction – Google, Facebook, Microsoft – they are all extremely successful. However many organisations struggle to innovate because they are held back by process, policies, procedures, and so on. There needs to be marked change to shift the hearts and minds of the workforce to feel that they have a safe and supportive environment to come up with and share ideas. When this happens, innovation will be embedded within the culture and will self-sustain.