We hear a lot about how managers and leaders in the sector need to be innovative, yet many have done this all their lives. So, why is it that we often don’t acknowledge innovation in the workplace? There are reasons for this but the most common one is that for innovation to be effective, it should be embedded into what you do – not a separate part or unit or program. You don’t need an innovations team, but a team of innovative people. Here are five simple things you can do (adapted from Gardner, Enabling factors July 2015):
1. Set aside time to think, and make personal goals.
You need time to dedicate to thinking differently and you should ‘’force’’ that into your day. This kind of focused, creative thinking builds a strong culture where ingenuity and change are embraced and valued. The thing is that innovation isn’t about size; you don’t have to have the grandest idea, just the newest one. Make sure every team meeting you have has some time dedicated to talking about something new.
2. Encourage conversation and collaboration.
Get inspiration from outside the immediate work area; look at what others are doing; critique an idea or change that has been in the news and assess why it was innovative. Don’t confuse innovation with success.
3. Embrace failure and encourage risk.
Don’t be too focused on reporting and compliance. The sector has grown up with this belief and the fallacious connection between compliance and quality. We have not adequately stimulated and rewarded innovation, quite the contrary, we have often stimulated repetition and rewarded that. Think about Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg’s guiding philosophy, the “Hacker Way,” openly encourages Facebook employees to “make bold decisions, even if that means being wrong some of the time.” There is nothing wrong with being wrong.
At the end of the day, every employee wants to contribute and add value. There is no doubt that people contribute by doing their job but equally no doubt that the real value-add comes from those that explore, think creatively and try new things. Make sure you have enough of these people and encourage them to do what they do best.
4. Start small, but aim high.
The words “change” and “innovation” can strike fear in the hearts of those too comfortable in their working routine. For those who may be hesitant about diving into the deep end, start with small innovations and as they’re much less daunting and easier to implement. Think of innovation as a spectrum: at one end, smaller, incremental changes can be introduced before moving up to the more disruptive and transformative innovations on the other end.
5. Engage the entire business.
The need to innovate and think creatively is a cross-departmental problem, but one that’s too often worked on by only a small group of people. Additionally, innovation efforts tend to be poorly communicated throughout the business. If it is really hard for you to actually remember the last time something was innovative in your organisation, it is likely you haven’t looked hard enough or can’t recognise it. Look harder…………..