What? OK, well not exactly.
But like all life relationships, a business must follow a lot of the same rules if you want them to be successful.
Whether you’re working on the next phase of product development, trying to impress that new girl down the street or trying to build a relationship with your troublesome child, you need to be innovative.
The overall start to Innovation is all about assessing a situation; determining what’s working and what’s not, and more often than not you need an outsider’s view to come in and see the problem areas. And to see if it's even feasible. But the most critical part - innovation comes from listening and hearing out what the other party has to say.
In this modern age, innovation is all around us. From weird and wonderful new technologies to new startup business models, the very idea of innovation is taking off just as fast as the businesses that embrace it.
Did you know? In the U.S. alone, 63% of companies have hired Chief Innovation Officers, and over 90% of businesses are using new technologies to help them implement the innovation process.
But not all companies are prepared to push innovation within their organisations. Changing workplace systems and procedures requires resilience and flexibility. And let's face it, change is big. So how can you learn to embrace innovation at your business?
The last thing you want to do in this modern age is to get left in the dark ages. Every businessman's nightmare. Many easy-to-implement ideas can help creativity and passion flow within your organisation.
Intrapreneurship is an old word that’s now really starting to become a bit more familiar. An intrapreneur is someone who has a mindset of an entrepreneur but brings their ideas for change to the business where they are employed instead of going out and launching their own business. There are companies around such as Innovolo that will act as intrapreneurs for your business.
A good step to start is always to remember the "no idea is a bad idea" policy. Let your employees need to try out their ideas, and give them the opportunity to them pitch decision-makers at your company.
Let the daydreams roll
Studies have shown that 15% of any employees time is spent doodling and brainstorming new ideas, whether intentional or subconscious. A step to adding an Innovative culture into your workplace is to give an allotted time to your staff to let their brain run wild.
This kind of wild-brain-time is the genesis of the invention and fosters the passion for one’s work.
Reward experimentation - Even when it sucks
Following on from the daydreaming, leaders of innovative companies know that beyond just giving your employees time to experiment, you should also reward creative habits. Nothing squashes creativity faster than the fear of failure, so as much as you should celebrate the successes of any and all experimentation, you should also celebrate the failures.
Encourage the a, b, c
Along with encouraging your team to let their brain unwind, help them to do their own research as well. Let your employees’ personal interests and passions do the leading as they look into new technologies, read articles and write reports for your business.
Nothing works better than when the heart is behind it.
Tequila, Salt & Lime (oh and give it a shake)
Provide your employees with alcoholic beverages. Result: some super Innovative results, some mega happy employees and some drunken fights round the back of the premises.
Well, that wasn't exactly my point, but there’s no better way to get your employees thinking outside the box than to assign them new and exciting projects outside the scope of their daily activities. While some employees may initially react with a fear of failure, ultimately they will be engaged by chance to try something new in your supportive “no idea is a bad idea” work environment.
Don’t nail yourself in a coffin, your time's not up yet David
The most successful innovative companies know that they are more than just their products and services. Instead of only defining your business by what it sells, identify your assets and strategic ways. As an added bonus, your employees will be inspired to feel that they are more than just their job roles, as well.
Sunglasses? Check. Wine? Check. Laptop left at home? Check.
Workers around the country are taking less and less vacation time, and it’s not a good trend.
Beyond the myriad of health benefits associated with taking a vacation, time away from work can actually make you more productive. Studies show that certain activities that involve a truly unplugged environment, like hiking in a nature reserve, can actually boost creativity up to 50%!
Encourage your employees to use all of their vacation time despite work pressures so that they come back to the office refreshed and full of new ideas. This includes stopping for lunch by the way which is a whole different story we will touch on another day.
Follower or Leader?
Lastly, there’s no better way to encourage innovation in your company than to lead by example. Innovation starts at the top - leaders need to be role models for workplace passion, positive outlook, clear direction and vision, and of course, embracing change.
If you’re not innovating, you’re standing still.
When you stand still, everything moves 100x faster and time leaves you behind. The future of your company is decided today. If you feel your business is being left in the dust by fast-moving, innovative competitors, have no fear. Fear is the number one enemy of creativity, and as we’ve seen, encouraging creativity is the key to embracing innovation at your business.
There are many ways that you can start to bring innovation to your company, and significant change doesn’t happen all at once. Start small, with any one of the above ideas, and slowly layer in more until your business is a pinnacle of creativity and innovation.
Innovation isn’t about being better than your competition or reacting to what’s happening around you. Innovation happens before you need to react.
When you say to let their brain wander, how far is too far?
It depends on the individual, but there are certain rules of thumb. No idea or suggestion should ever be criticized outright without first being discussed and considered for its merit. Also, having an “Open Mind” doesn't mean you need to create a work environment where you don't debunk or poke holes into ideas. Innovative companies provide a safe and supportive environment for employees to feel comfortable and confident in speaking up, but still expect people to be able to take criticism.
Working on new and exciting projects outside the scope of ongoing work gets employees thinking outside the box – does this mean they need to be working on these projects at their after-hours?
Ideally, yes. The more time people spend out of their day-to-day work and focusing on these new initiatives, the better chance there is for creativity and innovation to actually happen. However, if people don't have the time or resources to dedicate to working on these side projects during their off-hours, brainstorming sessions immediately following a project's completion can also be effective.