How to boost workplace innovation

The workplace is evolving. The fading lines between the workplace and home mean that employees are connected to their jobs 24/7. A connected worker now demands flexibility while still being able to maintain boundaries. Given that they are connected all the time, there is an increased need to have a work-life balance. The connected worker wants to be empowered to use their time, energy, and effort to solve the more significant issues they face at work.

It can be hard to innovate at work because it’s hard to be creative in an environment that is not known to be very flexible. Workplace innovation is essential for businesses to keep their employees motivated and allow them to be more productive. Innovation can be easy to come by, but it will be harder to get employees to stay with the business if the company is not encouraging this.

Organizations are encouraging workplace innovation now more than ever to stay on top of market trends and defend their bottom lines. Over 63% of organizations have recruited chief information officers to drive new ideas and systems. Innovative workplaces are happier workplaces, with higher levels of employee satisfaction and retention. Here are some tips on how to boost workplace innovation :

Leadership & management

Setting the mindset “innovation is the new normal” comes from the top, i.e., senior management of the organization. Senior leaders must foster methods to encourage employees to take ownership and responsibility for new ideas and solutions. Even though it may be difficult, we’ve got your back with these techniques:

1) Employees should be empowered to solve challenging problems alone.

For instance, Steve Jobs at Apple quoted “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” Therefore, a little push will go a long way in sustaining an innovative environment as empowered employees begin to solve challenging problems hurled at them. Never forget that people are as innovative as you allow them to be, so let your employees chase their “aha moments.”

2) Non-Hierarchical Management Approach

A hard pill to swallow, but an organization with a strict hierarchy cannot soar higher when it comes to innovation. Because tasking an employee who works deferentially to think about innovation only when required hinders their creativity.

The world is rapidly changing whether we like it or not. Likewise, traditional hierarchical structures are becoming overrated. Nowadays, flat organizational structures are the most innovative with a robust management approach. Thus, allowing employees to break down silos and barriers between work areas is crucial to boost workplace innovation. Moreover, cross-pollination between teams and divisions develops new ideas and solutions. WordPress has over 20% of the world’s websites, making them a well-known internet company globally. But, Automattic, the firm behind WordPress, has a flat organizational structure as they only employ a couple of hundred people working remotely. Thus, a highly autonomous balanced management structure allowed organizations such as WordPress or GitHub to become successful.

3) Why should your employees care about the organization? Have you given them a reason?

Innovation should strictly be a part of everyone’s job description, not just senior management. Your employees must have some skin in the game. Therefore, start by searching for ways to incentivize staff, to bring them along the journey to develop a company-wide innovation strategy. For example, DHL’s solutions to complex issues such as delivery sequencing and accessing remote areas do not come from the senior management but their staff who work with customers, creating an innovation-focused pool of employees.

4) Intrapreneurs should be encouraged

Intrapreneurs are organizational staff with a mindset and skillset to innovate, i.e., predictable entrepreneurs who happen to be working for you. For instance, Fishbowl, a software company, uses resources to locate and recognize intrapreneurs existing within their structure for value addition.

Innovation strategy

Workplace innovation must be embedded as a core part of your organization’s DNA. Every employee’s intent for their day-to-day job should be aligned towards the company’s innovation strategy.

1) Development and practicing of innovation strategy

An excellent example would be Microsoft, as leadership provides employees with certainty about the core role of innovation and reinforces the idea that innovation is everyone’s responsibility. Typically, an innovation strategy shares insights into the growth of the market and product/service innovation by laying out concise guidelines and principles

2) Failure must be accepted and not dwelled on

For instance, Steve Jobs at Apple quoted “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire sThe risk of failure is unavoidable. It is thus easier and beneficial to acknowledge the possibility and dedramatize it—in turn, motivating employees to take the initiative. Have you ever heard of dominant market leaders such as Coke, Netflix, and Amazon denying past failures? As Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey quoted, “If we’re not making mistakes, we’re not trying hard enough.”.

Willingness to experiment

Innovation does not fall into place unless an organization is willing to experiment. Rule number one is having an appetite for new things, whether through customer co-creation, identifying market adjacencies, or participating in an innovation hub.

1) Be on the lookout for market adjacencies

For instance, Steve Jobs atAdjacencies can be defined as new products or markets closely related to the industry you Adjacencies can be defined as new products or markets closely related to the industry you are currently engaged in. However, keep in mind that they need to be different enough to represent new value. Therefore, shifting to such areas solidifies a company’s market position and creates new customers—for example, Disney’s recent foray into streaming media. Even though they pump out an incredible amount of popular content, stepping into the market adjacency of a platform for streaming doubled their shares.

2) Embracing co-creation and open innovation opportunities

Who could have better opinions and ideas other than your most loyal customers? When it comes to innovation, involve them too, primarily if they regularly use your services and products.

Starbucks ran a portal known as “My Starbucks Idea” for over a decade from 2007 to 2017, collecting over 150,000 suggestions from dedicated fans around the globe. The openness and co-creation resulted in not only the development of top-selling products, but they grasped the market with a community of superfans.

3) Innovation Hubs

Innovation Hubs are centers for networking which eventually lead to exchanging of new ideas. The term is prevalent nowadays, creating hundreds of these hubs around the world. Innovation hubs thrive on a multidisciplinary approach to innovation by showcasing the importance of collaboration in problem-solving. They encourage “blue-sky” thinking

Open communication

Recently, “Transparency” has become a vital aspect of organizational success. Likewise, innovation transparency is equally essential as employees deserve to know senior management is open about the need for innovation and its potential benefits.

1) How to be transparent

For instance, Steve Jobs atAdjacencies can be defined as new products or markets closely related to the industry you Senior management should communicate clear, consistent information about the company’s innovation goals and the potential benefits for employees.  Square, a mobile payments company, has mandated meeting notes for every meeting involving more than two people to be publicly shared across the company. Thereby raising employees’ awareness of the companies problem-solving. 

Staff wellbeing

For instance, Steve Jobs atAdjacencies can be defined as new products or markets closely related to the industry you SEmployees should not feel threatened or at risk when they have been creative. The two ways to ensure this does not happen are:

1) Recognition and Rewards  

If a new successful idea innovated by a fellow employee has the potential to boost company revenue, you need a way to recognize and reward that employee. This can be done in multiple ways, such as public recognition or handing out an award at an all-hands meeting. A great example would be “Westin Hotels,” which provides public acknowledgment and a paid five-day trip for the top five innovators.

2) Psychological safety

It is crucial to get right since employees may feel that their jobs could be threatened after an unsuccessful innovation attempt.

They should feel honest and forthright about new product and systems suggestions, without fear of recrimination or adverse effects on their jobs.

Workplace design and layout

The physical working environment plays a significant role when it comes to encouraging innovation.

1) Renovation of the office

Even if it is something as small as where a particular item is placed, the Office design and layout can significantly impact creativity and collaboration. For instance, Google’s groundbreaking office designs from greens, vintage subway cars, and revolving bookcases are a masterpiece to look at. However, you don’t have to invest a large amount of money for such gimmicks; instead, use their approach of placing teams together to learn from each other and creating spaces where informal meetings and information sharing can prosper.

Tools and software

Nothing can be done without the right set of tools and software as it will save time and effort giving employees enough hours to innovate. Moreover, a good set of innovation software can guide your staff in taking an idea through from concept to implementation.

1) Tools

Numerous time-saving software is available for organizations, ranging from project management software, online collaboration platforms, or even cloud accounting products, making it possible to save time on fundamental processes.

2) Innovation software

Innovation is not necessarily natural talent. Anyone has access to creativity and innovation and can solve complex problems with the right tools, processes, and methods. Thus,

Investing in innovation management software is the way to go. The right software can foster an authentic innovation culture across your company by structuring imagination, collaboration, communication, and setting parameters for problem-solving.

In a nutshell, innovation is not meant for practicing during retreats or workshops. Suppose an organization solely believes that thinking about new ways of doing things is an occasional exercise. In that case, they will never be able to access the full potential of their employees’ creativity and imagination. Instead, make room for the growth of innovation as part of your employee’s daily tasks.

How an innovative environment boosts digital innovation

An innovative environment ensures everyone within the organization is working towards improving organizational practices, efficiency and performance. The benefits of doing so are wide and varied. If you look on the bright side, it increases competition leading to efficient production of higher quality products at a lower cost. Next, it reduces resistance to change by improving staff retention. Since, staff are more likely to enjoy jobs which promote teamwork and problem solving. Moreover, the most important aspect of an innovative environment is adaptability to changes in the industry. Finally, it overall improves he efficiency of an organization’s resources as you might gain new customers or offer new or improve existing products or services, or enter new markets.

The approach towards innovation is driven by your business strategy, capability, market understanding and commitment to the process. All in all, the following processes add capacity to your business with either little or no additional costs. little or no additional costs.

Matt Parks

Matt Parks

About the Author: President & CEO, Matt has over 20 years building and leading high functioning teams
delivering exceptional results