HNI Marketing Director
“Innovation” may seem like a trendy topic in business, but among market leaders, it’s more than something they just talk about — it’s a core competency. According to Fast Company, the 10 most innovative companies in 2013 were:
Some of the brands of the list are household names. Others may not be so familiar (at least not yet). Being innovative is something we all know is important — but how do you ensure it becomes a part of your culture?
Encouraging Continuous Innovation
According to renowned innovation expert Langdon Morris, “Innovation is the process of continually creating new ideas and turning them into new business [and profitable streams of revenue] as a matter of strategy, method, and habit.”
Morris’ idea that innovation must be a habit is a powerful one. But this definitely is easier said than done. There are a few elements that usually are present in the companies we work with that are the most innovative:
1) A Platform
Many companies have adopted formal processes or internal platforms where people can share suggestions to improve the company or its products. Do you have a standard method for employees to suggest new ideas?
Providing a channel to formalize the process of introducing new ideas doesn’t necessarily have to be technology enabled, but in many cases it can help. Some of your most innovative ideas may come from colleagues who are closest to customers and not necessarily from folks in the board room. Technology allows more people to participate in the process and may encourage those who are less comfortable speaking up in other settings.
2) The Right Environment
Not all ideas are created equal — but a culture of innovation requires an environment where people feel safe introducing any and all new ideas. While every suggestion can’t be implemented, anyone sharing their ideas should be thanked and shown respect.
To help build an environment of innovation, share how you evaluate new ideas, services, and products. Company-wide transparency in the process lets all employees know that their suggestions are taken seriously.
Those who contribute great ideas should be rewarded, which encourages others to do the same. The reward should be based on the outcome of the idea, focusing on what meaningful impact it had on the organization. Done right, this can start a chain reaction that moves through your company.
How are You Building a Culture of Innovation?
Has your company implemented a process for accepting and evaluating new ideas? How do you encourage employees to innovate and make sure they feel like their suggestions are heard? Share your ideas in the comments!