Ten steps to a culture of innovation

by Lauren Acurantes03 Jan 2017
Fostering a culture of innovation is needed in a company for it to see growth and particularly for when you think “your company is losing its edge”, said entrepreneur and thought leader Micah Solomon at Forbes.

He then went on to list down 10 ways business leaders can demonstrate innovation within the company:

Innovate in all areas of your business
Some employees are under the impression that the call for innovation in a company is mostly for its products or services. Solomon said that as a leader, it is your job to clearly state that you are looking for innovation in all aspects of the business, from in-house processes to business models and to something he referred to as ‘texture’.

“[‘Texture’ is] the feel of how you do things rather than what you actually do: for example, changing up the language in your autoresponder messaging is a “texture” innovation,” he wrote.

‘Seek out ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ moments’
Encourage employees to innovate outside of their areas of expertise, he said, such as inviting “graphic designers to critique you’re A/P process and [inviting] accountants to make marketing suggestions”.

Like the boy in the fable mentioned, weaknesses and opportunities are only visible to those not within the inner circle, he added.

Encourage ‘dumb ideas’
Turn it into a competition and encourage employees to share their ideas, regardless of how ‘dumb’ it may sound.

“Use such a competition to take the stigma away from innovative-but-unrealistic or awkward-sounding suggestions,” he said. 

Crowdsource it
Get your audience or customers to help innovate your company by crowdsourcing it through various social media and survey sites, he said.

Don’t overlook freeform questions on customer surveys
“You’ll find gold in these responses once you stop thinking of customer suggestions as only “problems to be resolved” rather than as being “input that could be transformative,” he said, adding that these make for great help when combined with internal staff suggestions.

Use existing innovations 
Not everything has to be new, Solomon said. Take an innovation already being used in specific areas of your business and figure out ways to make it company-wide, he suggested.

Make your innovations available to the public
Encourage employees to come up with ideas that can be used internally and can be offered for use to the general public.

‘Don’t waste your mistakes’
Look at mistakes made in the past as an opportunity to create better processes, products, and services, said Solomon.

‘Location matters’
Sometimes the physical aspect of the place can have an impact on an employee’s ability to innovate, he said. Encourage your employees to change locations if they feel like ideas are running dry.

Make clear that nothing is off-limits
Circling back to what Solomon first suggested, make sure employees understand that innovation is welcomed in all areas of the business and “that you’re willing to kill your own cows – whether sacred or cash – before the competition does it for you”.

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  • by Dr Elbie 4/1/2017 4:51:55 AM

    I read this article and I encourage your continued work in trying to understand how to create this elusive "culture of innovation." It isn't easy. I have been doing this for over 30 years and worked with over 150 companies and interacted with over 50,000 employees in that time. What I learned from my first class that I ever delivered on teaching the Toyota Production System to a clients employees was very surprising. In the Toyota Production System (TPS), the first thing you need to understand is what is meant by "muda" (or waste that keeps value from being delivered). So when I was encouraging employees to come up with a few wastes in the business, the employees were real edgy. They were turning around to look who was in the room and then they responded. It turns out, that "change without reprisal" is the most important tenet of any proposition to create a culture of innovation. You see, the employees wanted to contribute with their ideas but not if it meant that they would lose their jobs. So we addressed that by trademarking, the "No Blame" symbol. It has been our trademark for 20 years. It is the absolute first step. And to get that going, you need the approval of the CEO to guarantee no one will lose their job for making a suggestion that challenges the "status quo." I would further add that just making this pronouncement to the company, even with the CEO's approval, is not enough. You need to beware of Black Knights, who challenge all change. They are dangerous because they stay below the radar and try to subvert changes that will lead to the "culture of innovation." So I agree with most of you points, but realize this most important step cannot be ignored.

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