To continue the growth and success of a company, you must be able to anticipate market needs and stay ahead of the industry trends. Better yet, set the trends yourself! Being able to do this keeps your business on top and your company thriving. However, this is an impossible goal if innovation is not encouraged and celebrated within your company.
The common thread among industry leaders is that they are innovators. Being innovative in products, services, and business practices allows a company to face challenges and thrive in struggling markets. Here are some tried and true tips that will help you boost innovation in your workplace.
Start with Leadership
To get the innovation ball rolling, first, the leaders in your company must inspire innovation by doing simple things like reassuring their employees that it is okay to take risks, try new approaches, think critically, ask questions, and reflect on work in progress. In addition, company leadership needs to actually do all of these things themselves. Then they need to share the results of their experiments, both successful and especially unsuccessful, with the entire office.
Seeing managers ask questions, take time to explore new ideas, and open their mind to change, allows employees to feel comfortable doing these things themselves. Most importantly, seeing that management realizes failure is part of learning and it will not result in punishment takes a huge weight of the employees when wanting to suggest a change or idea. Like many successful endeavors in the workplace, it starts with leadership.
As a leader, be sure to express the philosophy that great ideas can come from anyone at any moment, to your employees. To keep the employees’ ideas moving in the right direction, take time to discuss the company’s goals and clearly define the purpose of thinking outside the box. By setting some loose guidelines you help keep the creative process growing without allowing it to get off task.
Create an Innovative Company Culture
It isn’t enough for the leadership to demonstrate these qualities. To truly boost employee innovation, there needs to be a clear culture that supports and encourages innovation. An important step in creating this company culture is to ensure that employees feel their management cares more about outcomes than they do for established procedures.
Employees that feel they risk getting in trouble for trying new ideas over established procedures are less likely to take a risk. Employees that perform tasks daily usually have unique ideas on new procedures, products, or techniques that would increase proficiency and/or quality, but if they feel there is a risk to trying or suggesting these new ideas, they are unlikely to bring the idea to management.
Let all your employees, senior level management all the way down to entry-level employees, know that you value creative ideas that help reach established outcomes in more efficient or more productive ways, not that you only value the ability to follow establish procedures. This can be hard to do at times. It requires a certain ability to let go and trust in the people you work with. It also requires the understanding that there will be failures along the way.
Start by asking employees if they have any ideas about their given responsibilities. Then, give them permission to give some of those ideas a try. Show them that you are excited by the experiment, and once they have tried it, celebrate the outcome regardless if it was as successful as they hoped or not. Then together, discuss ideas on how the experiment could be improved upon to keep the innovative ball rolling.
Continue learning together and show employees that you trust their instincts and that you believe failures are just a part of the learning process that usually leads to unexpected successes. If your employees believe that you trust them, they will return that sense of trust by believing that you will stand behind them.
Encourage Experimentation and Tolerate Mistakes
This last part can be the hardest part of boosting the innovation in your workplace. In addition to both demonstrating an innovative attitude yourself and encouraging experimentation from all employees, you must demonstrate that you and every level of company management can tolerate mistakes, even expensive mistakes. This is the key to truly becoming an innovative company.
Without mistakes, there is no innovation. That is the hard truth of this process. If your employees don’t trust that you will be tolerant of their mistakes, they will not try or present new ideas in the first place and your company will not experience the benefits of true innovation.
All of this might have company managers feeling a little panicked at the idea of people going out on a limb and trying every idea that pops in their head, potentially costing your company a lot of time and money. This doesn’t need to be the case at all. Set up time or opportunities for all employees to present the ideas that they have to their managers and colleagues. As a group, brainstorm the idea and discuss possible benefits and pitfalls of the idea in an encouraging and supportive way.
Once the idea has been thoroughly thought through, give them the green light to take the next step. Then if the idea fails, the costs have already been minimized and the faith that idea can be improved upon is already established. Knowing that management shares in the responsibility of failures helps employees feel less of a burden and knowing that there is a team of people helping to find ways to improve on the idea, gives employees the confidence they need to move forward.
Watching Innovation Grow
A company that thrives in the industry and grows despite market challenges is the goal of most company leadership. Demonstrating innovative habits as a leader, working to create an innovative company culture, and being prepared for mistakes is the key to boosting innovation and creating this kind of company. Top leaders in all industries have shown time and time again that it isn’t enough to be an expert in the established practices when a company can improve on, challenge, and change those concepts, it will thrive.
Sacha Ferrandi is the Founder and Principal at Source Capital Funding Inc., a Los Angeles hard money lender. As an expert in commercial and residential real estate with over 12 years of experience in the industry, Sacha works with properties of all varieties. Since the inception of his company, Source Capital, he has been responsible for overseeing the entire firm’s operations including the funding of hundreds of millions of dollars in private loans.