Many senior leaders ask themselves, “How can we encourage innovation within our organization?” First, innovation begins with the senior leadership team. As leaders of the organization, it is the senior leaders’ responsibility to create an environment where innovation is encouraged and rewarded, whether the idea was a success or not. As a leader, do you ask your contributors for new ideas? If you do, what is your process for asking? Do you have a process that rewards your team members for new ideas, and do you encourage innovation?
Having a process in place that is open to ideas creates a culture for innovation. Team members need to know that senior leadership wants their input. Many contributors don’t share ideas with leadership out of fear—fear of what senior leadership will think, fear the idea will be perceived as a bad idea, and possible fear of overstepping their boundaries.
Keep in mind, fear is a pretty intense emotion and will always stifle innovation. If your organization typically focuses on what didn’t work, you actually limit or eliminate any chances for innovation. When an idea doesn’t work, it’s best to determine the root cause, learn from the situation, and move forward. Innovative organizations view unsuccessful ideas as learning opportunities.
The culture you create and foster needs to erase this fear. You can do this in a multitude of ways; however, here are a couple of quick suggestions.
Intrapreneurship: Coined in the late 1970s, intrapreneurship is an old term that’s now really starting to take off. An intrapreneur can be defined as someone who thinks like an entrepreneur but shares his or her ideas with the organization.
You can encourage intrapreneurship at your organization with such simple steps as establishing where your team members can take their ideas for a no-judgmental review or implement a no idea is a bad idea mentality encouraging the concept that all ideas are welcomed.
Fifteen percent time: Fifteen percent time is a term invented by William McKnight at the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, or 3M, as it’s known today. This practice encourages contributors to spend 15% of their work time daydreaming, doodling, or experimenting with ideas that don’t necessarily have to do with their specific work. As McKnight knew and many other business leaders have since discovered, this kind of daydreaming is the genesis of invention and fosters passion for contribution.
Reward experimentation including even failure: Going along with McKnight’s 15% rule, leaders of innovative companies know that beyond just giving your team members time to experiment, you should also reward innovative habits. Nothing kills creativity faster than the fear of failure, so as much as you should celebrate the success of any experimentation, you should also celebrate failures.
Are you looking to encourage innovation in your organization, but aren’t sure how?