In business, you’ll often hear how important it is to set yourself apart through innovation. But how can you drive innovation when so much focus is given over to goals such as improved productivity, efficiency, and growth, to name but a few? Here are six tips to help you out.
In a typical productivity-obsessed culture, everyone is being pushed to their limit, maximizing precious time to contribute to the success of the collective. But more resources must be allocated to areas that can yield the highest returns to your business, such as improving the design. Outsourcing manufacturing to China, for example, lets your in-house team refocus on innovation. If you work with the right strategic partner, it can even improve the scale and quality of your product output at the same time.
Foster idea sharing
When you free up some of your productive work hours, you can put together a dedicated team for product innovation, for example. But you shouldn’t exclude the possibility that ideas might come from outside this group. Other employees may have come up with process insights they can share, which would benefit the entire organization.
Make idea sharing easier by giving everyone access to a platform where they can quickly post suggestions, and let the innovation team handle the in-depth task of evaluating, refining, and implementing these potential ideas for innovation.
Sharing ideas is a good thing, but many have suggested that great ideas come from making connections and putting unexpected things together. Employees who perform the same set of tasks each day may enjoy their jobs but aren’t being exposed to new experiences. One solution is to encourage collaboration at work. By mixing things up on occasion, you give each employee a chance to learn about the processes and tasks of their colleagues working on other projects or in other departments.
Open lines of communication
Another obstacle that may hinder innovation is a lack of communication within your organization. Meetings can sometimes have too much of a one-way flow in terms of communication; there is no opportunity for lower-ranked members of the hierarchy to sufficiently voice their ideas.
Expand and improve your internal communication channels, and you’ll enjoy a two-way benefit. Employees will find it easier to present their suggestions, and you’ll be able to keep them in the loop regarding any input they submitted, which ultimately shows them that their ideas matter and will always be considered on merits.
Don’t obsess over perfection
Business leaders in any organization, big or small, can fall into the trap of becoming too obsessed over numbers. They are always seeking the next way to be more efficient or scale up operations to have positive growth numbers to show for it. While these things are essential, they aren’t everything. Innovation requires that you take risks, and often these lead to failure. If you’re solely driven to seek perfection, your culture may become intolerant of the failure that is part of the process of innovation, and this can thwart your efforts.
Look for small changes
Setting reasonable goals for innovation may only bring about small changes, but that’s all you need. And in case things don’t work out, you’ll only have to deal with small-scale failures, too. Let your team constantly create incremental innovations that will help you stand out and be unique in your field.
Even after all these steps, innovation is never guaranteed – part of it will always come down to coincidence. But you’ll have increased the odds in your favor and set yourself up to be in the right circumstances to benefit from your team’s creativity.