Being innovative is a skill all business owners want their employees to have. If your company values innovation, this can give you a competitive edge in your industry. However, not everyone can tap into their innovative side on demand.
Some people are naturally good at coming up with out-of-the-box concepts, while some find it hard to deviate from the status quo. It doesn’t mean, however, that these people who struggle can’t be inspired to become more creative.
Below are five ways that can help encourage innovation amongst your employees.
1. Empower everyone to take part
Sometimes, the best ideas come from the most unexpected sources. This means that you should not limit employees based on their current job descriptions. Invite and acknowledge ideas from the entire team.
Just because some employees lack experience in a certain field does not necessarily mean that they can’t contribute. When you empower employees to bring in their ideas, this can also be a great way to evaluate employee skills and assess whether they have growth potential in the company.
During brainstorming sessions, avoid shooting down ideas that you don’t agree with. When you act negatively towards an idea, it could discourage others from sharing their own. Instead, show appreciation to the people who share their thoughts, no matter how irrelevant the suggestions are. Be patient in explaining why an idea might not work instead of calling it stupid or useless.
2. Break up the routine
While there’s nothing wrong with running a tight ship when it comes to your business, sometimes being overly strict or controlling how your employees do their tasks or schedule their work can backfire on you.
If your employees follow a rigid schedule every single day, chances are, they will be stuck to that routine. When this happens, employees tend to become more focused on following the rules and not messing up, instead of thinking up ways on how to become more creative and productive.
For employees to become inspired, they have to break out of their routine. This means that you have to trust them more and give them more flexibility in how they do their work. Allow them breathing time by not frowning upon every coffee break they take. What you may not realise is that according to research, office coffee breaks allow staff to relax which can revitalise your employees and boost productivity.
You can also try conducting meetings outdoors, pair or team up employees, and allow them to have flexible work schedules. When your employees start feeling that they don’t have to walk on a tightrope, this could create more time for them to think up brilliant ideas.
3. Give them the tools to thrive
What do you get if your office printer is always breaking down? Or if the internet connection is so slow it feels like you’re back in 1995? The answer? Frustrated, annoyed, and unproductive employees.
You can’t really expect your team to come up with the best idea ever if they’re too busy complaining that their laptops are not working or that the office is too cold. They won’t have time to become innovative if they can’t even perform a decent Google search because of lousy Wi-Fi.
If you want your employees to be innovative, you have to make it easier for them to do so. Make sure that the tools they need are provided to them. You don’t need to give them with the fanciest machines or top-of-the-line equipment. You just need to make sure everything they need is working sufficiently.
There are also available tools that can support your employees so they can collaborate and communicate more effectively. These applications can be used for communication, project management, task scheduling, and file management. You can go for paid or free programs depending on your business requirements.
4. Reward out-of-the-box thinking
When one of your people comes up with an amazing idea that will positively impact the company, you have to credit and reward that person. Giving out a reward is a tried-and-tested way to inspire employee motivation. Rewards make employees feel appreciated and can also motivate other employees to do better next time.
Giving out rewards can also foster healthy competition amongst your employees. However, you have to be careful and mindful that the competitive spirit is still having a positive impact. Don’t let it go over-the-top to the point that employees are pulling each other down to win the prize as this will be disadvantageous to the business in the long-term.
When giving out a reward, don’t assume that one size fits all. What one employee values may not be something another employee considers as an appropriate incentive. Some employees prefer monetary rewards while some would rather receive additional paid holidays or gifts in kind.
To know what motivates your employees, the simplest yet most effective way is to ask them. This will save you time and effort because you don’t have to second-guess what works for your team. If your company cannot afford to give personalised incentives, you can create a rewards program with a set of options your employees can choose from.
5. Be open to experimentation and failure
There is no instant formula that will produce innovation. Contrary to what many people believe, innovation is not just about having a breakthrough idea that will change the world. To truly arrive at something innovative and incredible, you have to test out different concepts. There are trial and error involved most of the time.
Many innovative concepts are results of years of study, research, experimentation, and of course, failures. The failures along the way help make an idea much stronger and foolproof. What this means is that if you want to innovate, you also have to be ready to fail.
Believe it or not, permitting your employees to fail will make them feel more empowered so they’re not scared to think out-of-the-box. When an idea does not work, don’t penalise employees as long as they learn something from their mistakes. Adopting a negative attitude would only discourage them to try again next time. Accept that failures are part of the process and use this experience to do better next time.
Innovate to grow your business
Fostering a culture of innovation can significantly contribute to the success of your business. Coming up with the best idea is not an easy process but following the methods above can help business owners motivate employees to strive towards that goal.