Innovation is critical for any business that wants to avoid becoming obsolete or being taken over by the competition. According to a McKinsey study, 84% of executives agree that innovation is essential for their growth strategy, but only 6% are satisfied with their innovation performance. That brings us to the key question:
How can a company become more innovative?
Mainly, this depends on its ability to add better ideas into the pipeline. Ideas are the very starting point for every great innovation. And where do ideas come from? Your employees, of course! Every one of them has the potential to transform your business with a brilliant idea.
It’s not about inventing the next Facebook or Airbnb. An idea that could improve an internal process, potentially saving costs, is just as desirable as an idea for a new product or service line.
However, this is where most companies struggle. How can you encourage and sustain an ongoing flow of thought-through ideas? (We have a solution to help you with that.)
The four steps to better ideas and more innovation
HR plays a vital role in laying the groundwork for innovation in the organisation. Here are four steps that you can take to get the ball rolling:
1. Embed innovation into your company’s culture
Imagine that Gmail wouldn’t exist today if Google hadn’t encouraged one of its engineers to pursue his side project. This is an excellent example of how company culture enables innovation in the first place.
The most successful companies fully encourage and reward innovative behaviour. Everyone should be comfortable with sharing ideas openly, without fear of negative reactions.
2. Make innovation a goal
The commitment of senior management to innovation is key. If taken seriously, it should be on top of the company’s agenda. “What gets measured, gets done” also applies to innovation. Here are some KPIs that can help to track the progress on innovation:
- Number of ideas submitted by employees
- Number of ideas currently being tested for feasibility and profitability
- Funds invested in the testing of ideas and further development
- Revenue generated by products or services that didn’t exist a year ago
3. Develop a system to drive innovation forward
Without a clear plan on how ideas will be generated, captured, validated and turned into actual working solutions, there will be little progress even with the noblest intentions. Here are some ideas on how a system for innovation could look like:
- Let employees submit ideas freely and whenever they want, for example, to a dedicated internal email address or on a form on your intranet.
- Host an event, like an innovation tournament, dedicated to identifying the best ideas which will be pursued further, while having fun as a company.
- Make it a competition by giving out lucrative rewards for the best ideas. You can appoint a special jury to crown the winners.
4. Encourage failure
There is no such thing as failure, only learning experiences. And what looks like defeat in the beginning, could be the next breakthrough idea. The popular post-it note was famously invented by a scientist at 3M when the glue he had developed turned out to be too weak for its original purpose.
Fear of failure is one of the main barriers that need to be overcome on the way to innovation. The company Intuit takes this to the next level by hosting an annual “failure award,” which celebrates a failed idea that brought the most valuable learning for the company.
What to do next
By now, you’ll agree that shared ideas are at the core of an innovative, agile workplace. We’re promoting the award-winning Think on Your Feet® programme from Canada as a way for companies in this region to tap into the power of ideas. This programme teaches your employees how to let their ideas finally step out of the closet, and communicate them clearly and with impact.
How are you encouraging innovation in your organisation? Let us know in the comments below!