Innovate or die. That is often the mantra in the marketplace, especially in fast-moving sectors like the tech industry. And your ability to bring innovation to the marketplace depends largely on you having employees who are innovative. If you feel like your employees are not as innovative as you’d like them to be, these five ideas can help you create a more innovative work environment for all.
Employee Reading Programs
An article on the Forbes website suggests that businesses that want to foster innovation start an employee reading program. The purpose of this is to get employees to read about their industry and even some unrelated industries in order to inspire creative thinking.
Encourage them to read about a certain topic like finance, marketing, or your company’s competitors. Tell them at the outset of the program that you want them to read about these topics in order to improve their work environment and your business’s bottom line.
They should seek out their own sources, which can include business-related publications like The Wall Street Journal or Forbes, but it can also include blogs and books.
Create an in-office contest to encourage participation and offer prizes to the employee who offers the best information. You can start a program like this every couple of months to give more employees the chance to win.
Get Them to Care
If your employees don’t care about your business, they won’t feel to anxious to be innovative, according to Robert Half. Incentive programs like a Years of Service Awards program or raises based on the creation of innovative ideas can help.
Additionally, don’t make it difficult for them to care, meaning do what you can to reduce red tape and hoop-jumping. Managers with closed doors, company hierarchy, and other barriers will stop even the most innovative employees if they have to try too hard to get their ideas off the ground. In other words, they stop caring about the company’s well-being if you or your company’s work environment makes it difficult to care.
For many employees, the thought of expressing their ideas in front of others can be terrifying. To remedy this, Entrepreneur.com recommends that company bosses foster an environment that encourages listening.
While it could be that you as the boss listen one-on-one to employee ideas, it may also be that you have to set the environment for larger groups. For example, if you hold brainstorming ideas, make sure that your employees feel safe enough to offer up suggestions. Even the most far-out ideas can be met with appreciative words.
While the idea itself may not be useful, people’s creativity is. Sometimes, the best ideas and the worst ideas come from the same people. Listen to them all.
The Harvard Business Review suggests that company bosses allow a change of perspective in order to encourage innovation. This practice requires people to put their egos aside, even if they are the “expert” in the office.
The HBR offers this example. People with sleep apnea must be observed by doctors, who ask them to come into a sleep clinic. These test subjects are asked to sleep in strange beds with sometimes awful contraptions strapped to their faces. While this setup may help the doctor, it may not (and probably doesn’t) help the patient sleep, which is part of the underlying problem.
The most innovative ideas require many perspectives. This practice encourages people to think about solutions differently. Reorganizing how people work brings on a change in perspective, which in turn, fosters innovation.
While the doctor in this example may feel fine about subjecting a patient to his/ her testing practices, when the shoe is put on the other foot, the attitude toward the experiment will change. Innovation arises out of this.
If you’re asking your employees to work 60 and 70 hours a week, let up. It’s nearly impossible to come up with something innovative when burnout has set in.
Working too much causes burnout, which stifles creativity. Aside from reducing the number of hours that your employees work, take steps to encourage work/ life balance like offering telecommuting or incentives for doing volunteer work in the community.
Activities like these not only allow employees to relax a little, they put your employees in contact with ideas they might never have come up with without such a program. The result is more innovation and often better, more productive work.
The most innovative companies employ the most innovative people in an environment that encourages them to be creative. If you’re not getting the innovative ideas from your employees that you were hoping for, you may need to shake things up. Programs like volunteering or telecommuting as well as an environment relatively free of ego encourage employees to be innovative. The more of these elements you bring into your office, the more innovative your employees will be.