Innovation and creativity are now more important than ever to an organisation’s ability to remain competitive, or even to survive during economic uncertainty. As we progress through an evolving creative and digital age, it is vital that organisations adopt new approaches that actively encourage and seek out more inventive ways of working.
Many do not, however, and simply fail to harness the huge potential for innovation within their employees. WPG has worked in this area for many years, and offers the following tips on how organisations can truly drive an innovative workforce:
- Put time and resources into creativity. Often, organisations in need of innovation concentrate on other elements of the business as a way of surviving economic uncertainty. However, just creating an environment in which employees think creatively can drastically improve levels of innovation. They should have the space to discuss this at a set time every week, or during events specifically designed to generate new ideas. Not only does this give employees more of a voice, but it also communicates the importance of innovation as a company value, especially if the organisation actively embraces and implements the changes. In 2008, for example, Virgin Atlantic launched a day-long workshop called V-JAM, involving a diverse range of staff, partners, customers, and suppliers. Its purpose was to help people to connect and develop new ideas around the whole travel experience. Afterwards, attendees received an open invitation to propose ideas, eventually resulting in the development of six valuable new projects.
- Address leadership style. Leaders can be hugely influential in harnessing innovative working within their teams and by being compelling role models for change. One of the most effective ways is by creating an open environment that actively encourages regular feedback and recognition for innovation. This is more likely to generate shared commitment amongst employees who feel that their ideas are both welcomed and appreciated. Leaders should receive specific training and development that promotes these behaviours, and UBS Poland Service Centre is a good example of this in action. Its line managers received a half-day workshop to develop the necessary skills for innovation as well as learning how to manage this within their staff.
- Enhance employees’ self-belief. It is often mistakenly assumed that certain individuals are innovative while others are not. Research has shown that simply increasing someone’s belief in their own ability to come up with new ideas actually makes them more innovative. Therefore, by implementing initiatives that increase employees’ confidence and self-belief, and providing support and recognition for innovative ideas and activities, organisations can harness the innovation potential within a team. This reduces reliance on the usual suspects to generate improvement and execute new ideas, allowing others to provide a fresh perspective and contribute to different stages of the innovation journey.
- Improve diversity. There is no doubt that diversity enhances innovation. One of the most important aspects of innovation is in being able to approach a task from a different viewpoint, and having a diverse workforce (in terms of background and skills) can generate a variety of new ideas. It can also be useful to set up ‘cross-functional teams’, comprising a diverse range of people, so that ideas can be shared between teams and employees gain a fresh outlook on the organisation’s challenges. Innovation, as a process of ‘putting ideas to work’, also involves different stages of activity in which a diverse range of skills and profiles can contribute very effectively.
- Collaboration over competition. Within certain work environments, such as sales, competitiveness and reward schemes can be an effective way of achieving targets. However, such a driven type of environment may not be the best way to encourage innovation and could damage collaboration, which is an important aspect of innovation. For example, employees are more likely to hesitate when sharing ideas with colleagues if there’s a danger that their ideas will be taken by others. Instead of creating a competitive environment, it would be more appropriate to encourage a ‘team-first’ approach, for example, by setting up small teams and asking them to consider new ways of tackling different aspects of a project. This will channel innovation as well as create an open dialogue between employees and promote a more inclusive environment.
At times it can seem difficult to generate innovation, especially within larger organisations with a number of different departments. However, by making a few small changes to attitudes and creating the relevant time and space, it really is possible to increase the level of innovation levels within teams.
At Work Psychology Group we help many different types of organisations – at employee, team and leadership levels – to develop and promote a culture of innovation, harnessing their potential to achieve optimum performance and growth.
Are you satisfied with your company’s record for innovation? Are your employees confident enough to suggest new products and services or new ways of working? Do you provide sufficient time, space and resources? If not, perhaps there is something we can help you with. Click here for more information or to contact us.