Daily life at a startup is inherently exciting. Since capital is limited, teams are small, allowing each employee to wear multiple hats and fulfill fluid job descriptions, all to reach unprecedented goals.
Brainstorming sessions are intimate, voices are heard, creativity is appreciated and innovation is implemented. It’s quite the contrast to corporate America, where endless cubicles often keep an employee’s task list monotonous.
However, the juggling act of startup employees isn’t all fun and games. Often, the drive to be more productive in business is counterproductive for innovation, as team members find themselves and their creativity drowning in the demands of multiple company roles.
We specifically asked female members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invitation only nonprofit organization comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs, the following question to find out their advice for continually placing innovation as a top priority:
“How do you foster innovation in your startup, especially when team members are overburdened?”
Here’s what YEC community members had to say:
1. Stop Doing That!
“Refocus your startup on the essential projects needed to reach your immediate goals and stop doing everything else for now. By pushing your team to do too much too soon, you’ll lose the excitement that comes with innovating in a new business.” ~ Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems
2. Make Innovation a KPI
“Innovation can be a Key Performance Indicator, just like revenue or expenses. If you prioritize innovation as an extra metric that you track, it will incentivize creativity among team members. You could track contributions by team members during brainstorm meetings, new ideas added to an internal company list, or dollars saved by implementing innovative processes.” ~ Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.
3. Mentor, Consultant or Coach
“Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees, you’re too close to your own business and processes. That’s where getting a mentor, consultant, or coach really comes in handy. Someone with an outside perspective — who isn’t overburdened — can think more clearly and come up with innovate solutions.” ~ Nathalie Lussier, Nathalie Lussier Media
4. Set a Lofty Goal
“We pick a lofty goal that we want to shoot to hit that month, and hold an all-team brainstorm on how to make it happen. By pulling us out of our usual to-do lists, we end up coming up with a ton of creative new ideas and initiatives that end up extending beyond whatever that current goal is.” ~ Stephanie Kaplan, Her Campus Media
5. Schedule It In
“One of the best ways you can foster innovation is to make space for it in the company schedule. This could look like monthly brainstorming meetings, a company retreat, or simply making it a discussion point during your one-on-ones. By designating time for it, you make it a priority.” ~ Elizabeth Saunders, Real Life E®
6. Ramble Freely!
“Ramble Meetings are freeform brainstorming at its best. Put away the computers, phones and distractions and throw out crazy ideas. It can be one hour a day, or once a week — it’s your choice, but you need to do it, or else the very engine of growth that propels your company forward will slow down.” ~ Caroline Ghosn, The Levo League
7. Blogs and Webinars
“I always encourage my team members to read blog posts about content marketing and attend webinars in order to learn more and foster ideas. I also have a large list of blogs in my RSS feeder that I read on a regular basis.” ~ Heather Huhman, Come Recommended
8. Set Aside Play Time
“I think it’s really important to set aside play time where team members can simply focus on things that they enjoy doing and that give them the ability to be completely creative without confinement. When allowing your team members to play and explore, they will then often come up with other ideas and innovations that will help push the business forward.” ~ Erin Blaskie, BSETC
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