By definition, innovation is “the practical implementation of ideas that result in the introduction of new goods or services”, and 63% of companies now have Chief Innovation Officers to help generate new ideas and systems. However, everybody can innovate and it does not take a genius to come up with a new idea. After all, some of the best innovations came from everyday people! So getting your whole team involved and on board can help your organisation stay on top of the market.
Whether you have a system that employees are complaining about, or a process which does not seem to bring result – gathering your team for an innovation session could evolve a new way to perform the task. Inclusive problem solving and innovation will also increase the variety of people bringing new ideas to the table, ensuring that there’s a fresh perspective on the issue. Not only that, but it will collaborate your staff and ensure that people at every level are able to participate – enhancing employee satisfaction and even well-being.
Why Should Employers Encourage Innovation?
- Engages all stakeholders in the process of change – ensuing awareness
- Combines leadership with hands-on, practical knowledge of frontline employees – inclusive problem solving
- Competitive advantage over others in the market – by inventing new processes that competitors may not have
- Employee satisfaction and retention – involved employees will feel more valued
Leadership & Innovation Strategy
A strategy sets out guiding principles for how your company will grow and improve its services or products, and clarifies how each employee will help contribute to the problem solving process. How you create your innovation strategy depends on the type and size of business you run. However, the principle remains the same; people are as innovative as you allow them to be. So, adopting a non-hierarchical management approach will encourage your team to cross-pollinate between divisions and share their brilliant ideas! For example, Elon Musk’s radically flat management structure aims for a hands-on approach from senior management and asks employees to work across departments in subject-specific ways.
Senior leadership must also set the tone and give their employees a reason to care. Incentivise your staff about innovation by allocating time for creative sessions as well as rewards for success, as it shouldn’t be seen as something for the management team to think about, but instead, a part of everyone’s job description. A good example is 3M – a manufacturing giant, famous for giving its employees a 15% time allowance every day for constructive daydreaming. But of course, you must ask your employees to demonstrate the the results.
Types of Innovation Strategies:
Proactive – companies with this approach tend to be market leaders in technology, have strong research orientation and first-mover advantage. They access knowledge from a wide range of sources taking big bets/high risks, leading to radical or incremental breakthroughs.
Active – companies using this approach have broad sources of knowledge and medium-to-low risk exposure; they tend to hedge their bets but are prepared to respond quickly once markets and technologies are proven. They use mainly incremental innovation with in-house applied research and development. Examples are Microsoft, Dell and British Airways.
Reactive – this strategy is used by companies which are followers, look for low-risk opportunities, and take a wait-and-see approach. They copy innovations and use incremental innovators.
Passive – used by companies who wait until their customers demand a change in their products and services.
Simple Activities to Kick-Start Your Innovation Sessions
To start the exercise off and get peoples creative juices flowing, you could begin with a fun activity – even if it is completely unrelated. For example, an activity called Forced Connections involves brining together unrelated ideas to form a new concept that can serve a new or existing need. You could do this by having your team sit in a room without mobile devices or computers, and write down a list of unrelated objects on the board (or bring the items). Have the team pick a few of the objects and determine whether there’s a way that they could be connected. This exercise will force individuals to think outside the box and encourage creative thinking.
As simple as it sounds, get your team together and brainstorm ideas! Whether that be on a sheet of paper or digitally. At the end of the session, cast a vote for the best idea.
Use this approach if brainstorming doesn’t work. In this activity, participants will write their ideas down before entering a discussion to ensure that their perceptions are not influenced by others. Read the ideas out during the meeting.
6 Thinking Hats Approach
During an innovation session, your team can utilise this decision making tool which will allow everyone to collaborate and explore different ways of thinking to reach unbiased, unified decisions. To find out more about this tool, read our blog: Six Thinking Hats – make the right decision.
Lastly, don’t forget to reward your employees for their successful innovative ideas! Especially when they have the potential to save the company money or boost revenue. This can be as simple as public recognition in one of your team meetings, or even giving out flashy rewards if you feel like it. However, employees don’t want to feel like a failed attempt at innovation could threaten their jobs. So, set some ground rules in order to ensure your staff are psychologically safe. Make it clear that their positions won’t be at risk if the innovation exercise isn’t a success.
At TS Grale
Innovation is one of our core values, and we practice it by setting up Team Innovation Sessions as a regular occurrence. Particularly, when we have a business problem to solve or a process that needs improvement. The result? Everybody is included in business decision-making and everybody feels valued. We are able to gather different perspectives from people in different departments which gives our decisions and ideas more credibility and even increases their success.
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