Even the most innovative companies sometimes hit snags. Maybe there just weren't enough good ideas coming down the pipeline. Perhaps a few really promising ideas failed to pan out, disappointing the team and stifling their creative juices. How can the innovation manager get things back on track and keep forging ahead with innovation initiatives when things get rough? Here's how to foster an environment that generates new ideas and naturally produces innovative thought, even during those difficult times when nothing seems to be going right.
1. Create an Environment of Innovation
Beautiful outdoor areas and interesting, attractive indoor spaces can help spark ideas and creativity to help drive the company's innovation initiatives. Study what highly successful innovative companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Google do in terms of office design and employee entertainment. You'll find open, interesting spaces, places to play games, spots to relax, areas to get some exercise, and more.
What does your office space look like? If your workers are confined to a typical office design filled with cubicles, where windows are as rare as a compliment from Dilbert's boss, then you aren't promoting innovation as well as you could. The sights, sounds, colors, and even scents of the environment in which they work all contribute to provoking creative thought that leads to innovative thoughts and ideas. Natural sights and sounds, like a waterfall or an atrium, can be incredibly powerful in sparking innovation. Give workers play spaces and activities to play with, and creative thought will just start to happen more often. Video games and other playful activities can promote creativity as well as boost worker morale.
2. Look as Closely at Your Failures as at Your Successes
Success is a great thing, but it's a horrible teacher. People just don't learn from their successes like they do a big, whopping failure. When innovations or programs don't do well, or flop horribly, give your innovation team time and support while they figure out why it didn't work. Those then become the teaching tools that put you in a better position to do better next time around. Do some research to determine why the initiative failed. Figure out whether it just wasn't that idea's time yet or whether the idea was inherently flawed. If so, why was it flawed? Could it work with a new design or in a different market? Learn from your mistakes, and you will make fewer of them -- and smaller mistakes when you do fail. At the very least, you won't make that same mistake over again.
Often, an idea that failed before can later be revived and made profitable. Keep excellent notes and records of all your projects, even the abysmal disasters. Even if these innovations are never made viable, there can be smart new ideas hiding in all those notes and documentation. Reviewing old innovation notes is a great way to spark new thoughts and ideas when the creativity well seems to be tapped dry. Be sure these notes and reports are entered into the innovation software system so that everyone has access to it. You never know who else in the organization might see one of those fizzled old ideas and understand exactly what you need to breathe life into it.
3. Be Open to Change
Is your company open to changing when the innovation team comes up with better ideas or different ways of doing things? Lots of businesses get set in their ways -- unwilling to do things differently than what they've always done. If you aren't willing to embrace positive changes that the innovation team develops, you'll soon stifle their willingness to produce new ideas, either good or bad.
Make sure that executives, middle management, and other decision-makers are receptive to new ideas. When an innovation initiative isn't implemented, make sure there are sound reasons for the rejection other than, "That's not the way we do it around here." A corporate culture that accepts people even when they make mistakes or have bad ideas promotes the kind of loyalty that it takes to motivate them to deliver their best ideas up for the good of the business. Otherwise, you may see your best innovators jump ship and become your stiffest competition.
4. Don't Expect Perfection
Are people shot down in your organization for presenting silly or half-baked ideas? If so, you're likely killing the chances that they'll come forward when they have a genius idea. Welcome all well-intentioned ideas and suggestions. Evaluate each seriously. How many ridiculous flying machines were failures before the Wright brothers were successful? How many "Ask Jeeves" search engines flopped before the world fell head over heels in love with Google searches? Many innovations begin with an ill-formed idea and only with some thought and nurturing become brilliant innovations. Reward workers for their willingness to contribute, regardless of the viability of their ideas, and celebrate success across the organization when a good idea produces fruit.
5. Foster Innovation Across All Levels of Employees
Do your rank-and-file workers feel as free to offer their ideas as the president of the company does? Innovation should be welcome from any source, and everyone should share in the celebration of successful ideas and projects.
Do you keep innovation locked in a corner office behind closed doors, or is innovation a constant process that permeates the entire organization from top to bottom? Innovation is most successful when it's open to everyone, supported by upper management, and rewarded universally among the workers. Adopt the concept of "we" and avoid giving the impression that any one person or any group of people hold the sole proprietorship on your organization's innovation strategy.
Are you supporting your company's innovation team with a good innovation management system? Did you even know that there was software to manage this process? Innovation management software helps companies and innovation teams through the entire process of innovation, from generation of the original concepts through the development and final project implementation. Take a tour of the HYPE Innovation platform to see for yourself how this unique software can help you help your innovators.
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