Disruption is a buzzword in today's business environment. To most, it means interrupting the status quo to come up with fresh and more efficient systems. It can also mean creating markets for consumables that never even existed before. This kind of innovation requires creativity and productive collaboration, things that can only occur with support and guidance from management. A business leader can best serve his or her company by nurturing a work environment that encourages originality, sharing and the energetic synthesis of ideas.
Before meaningful innovation can emerge in a company, though, the first step is fully embracing a digital workplace. It's not an option any longer, but a necessity. Any company that wants to compete on an even playing field has to modernize and embrace new technology. Automated systems free employees from rote tasks, allowing them to engage higher functions like creativity and innovation. As the first step in becoming a business disruptor, make sure your company is fully on board. Digital competence includes:
• Email proficiency for all staff
• Company social media presence
• Continually updated website
• Digital records and equipment to access them
• Online banking
• Video conferencing
• Use of the cloud for collaboration and operational flexibility
• Digital customer records management (CRM)
Besides being digitally literate, a leader that promotes innovation in the workplace will have the spirit of an entrepreneur and the ability to look at the big picture rather than focusing on one task or campaign. Entrepreneurship involves a degree of risk, and disruption has never been achieved by playing it safe.
A willingness to embrace change and the ability to inspire others are key traits in an effective motivator. There are some crucial ways that business leaders can create a culture of innovation among employees, and we've explored some of the most important ones below.
1. Worker Investment
Employees need to feel a sense of ownership for their work and believe they are trusted to do a good job completing it. Once tasks are set, efficient leaders give subordinates room to structure their assignments as they see fit. Giving ownership to the people who are doing the work creates an emotional investment that leads to a more valuable end product. The ability to improvise within generous boundaries is also a spur for creativity and innovation.
2. The Flexibility to Be Creative
Each employee is an individual, and working styles may vary, but everyone needs to balance the stress of working with a chance to rest and recharge. Flextime and downtime will allow your people to work smarter, not harder. Light supervision paired with a reasonable amount of space in which to work boosts the ability to think outside the box. Shared working spaces are fine as long as they don't infringe upon personal space considerations, but micro-cubicles and group offices aren't inspiring places to chase innovation.
Creativity feeds off of originality and diversity. Besides giving your people space and time to innovate, setting up sharing opportunities between individuals and teams will spur creativity. Teamwork is an excellent opportunity to collaborate and feed off of each other's inspiration. Listening to the details of other people's projects can stimulate new ideas and broaden one's perspective, adding fuel to each person's unique creative impulses.
4. Rewards for Innovation
Dispensing a mixture of tangible and intangible rewards is one of the best ways to keep the innovation ball rolling. Positive reinforcement should include recognition and praise for efforts, as well as rewards with monetary value. These perks will drive home the message that creativity and innovation are appreciated at your company. It's good to follow up and put new ideas into play when you can. This not only gives your staff pride and investment in their work, but it can benefit the company.
5. Embracing Change
Creating a culture of innovation hinges upon not just encouraging change, but also accepting it when it occurs. Practicing active awareness of your response to employees will help to avoid dismissiveness in your manner or the tendency to hold onto entrenched ideas. Give your staff encouragement and support, even when you're not sure their ideas will work. Entrepreneurship comes with risk, and creative people learn from mistakes.
You know the standard advice to actively listen and reflect the speaker's ideas back to them? It really works. You can't collaborate without understanding each person's point of view, and openness is a vital component of a culture of innovation. Genuine and unbiased efforts to understand each other's ideas will also create a more cohesive and effective team. Pay attention to your body language. Eye contact and an alert posture that shows you're invested in what a person is saying will make the most of the interaction.
To employ these steps and foster an innovative workplace, you have to be present and available to your employees. It helps to have an open-door policy so that anyone with ideas or concerns can have a few minutes of your time. Don't take anything for granted, but ask staff to elaborate or clarify if you're not sure what they mean. One of the best ways to earn your employees' confidence and loyalty is to ask intelligent questions that show you've been listening and processing what they have to share.
Innovation from the Top Down
Listening, encouraging and being open to change are major contributions to innovation that you can make as a leader. Giving workers the confidence to take a chance, allowing them ownership of their work, and acknowledging and rewarding their efforts will encourage a productive and creative workplace. Implementing these ideas might be your best recipe for creating a culture of innovation in the workplace.
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