“Talent is never static. It’s always growing or dying” – Stephen King
No truer words have ever been uttered.
Regardless if you work in a creative profession like writing, painting or architecture; or as an entrepreneur trying to find creative new tactics to bring new customers in, innovation’s important in all aspects of running a business.
And why take on the entire creative load yourself when you have an entire team you’re paying to bring results to the table?
Here are 10 ways to encourage more innovation from your team, starting tomorrow:
Promote Innovation in a Team Environment
1. Give Them a Reason
Namely, by making them an active part of the company. Encouraging innovation requires that every employee feels like they’re an active member of the company’s agendas and future plans.
Invite them to participate, give them permission to say when something isn’t right – ask for better ideas. Obviously, let them know how much you depend on them, how their ideas will lead to bigger paychecks down the line. And keep your word.
2. Continually Stress the Importance of Innovation to the Company
Politely let them know that it’s their job and company 401k on the line if innovation flat-lines in the company. This doesn’t have to be a negative, but rather a positive reason for them to stretch their creative wings and grow into whatever role will await them as your team continues to grow.
3. Have Scheduled Brainstorming Sessions
“If you talk about it, it’s a dream, if you envision it, it’s possible, but if you schedule it, it’s real” – Tony Robbins
Don’t just talk about the need to get creative. Put everyone in a room together at a set time and day – or time of day, every day – and let the innovation juices start to flow. Meetings put lots of different heads together in the same place, encouraging a higher level of suggestions.
Don’t rely on suggestion boxes. They don’t encourage much in the way of smart, creative ideas. People feel more accountable for what they’re saying when it’s in a face to face atmosphere.
4. Train Them to be Innovative
I’m not talking about training them in the same way that you’d train your dog not to go poop-poop in the house here! Teach your team some of these proven innovation techniques and watch your business flourish.
Sometimes bouncing ideas around just isn’t enough. Sometimes you have to bring the hard science into play.
5. Encourage ‘Spying’
Encourage your employees to spend some of their work and after work time checking out the competition. To find out everything they can about how other companies in your industry do things: marketing, service, logistics, etc.
It’s likely that at some point during one of their investigations a light bulb will go off and they and/or your team will come up with better ways for your company to do business.
6. Make Work Habits Part of Their Creative Scrutiny
Sometimes the way you and your employees carry out the day needs to be improved upon just as much as any other aspect of the business. Examine everything, whether it be the order in which tasks are completed or the work schedule itself.
For instance, perhaps Flextime or Telecommuting, at least for a portion of the day or week will help motivate your employees to be more insightful about how to improve the company?
7. Always Support All Ideas, Regardless of Personal Opinions
Plain and simple: Always respond with kindness to all ideas. There are no dumb ideas when it comes to the quest for positive changes.
8. Tolerate Mistakes
Especially when it comes to those which cost money, lawsuits, market-share, etc. If you decide to pull the trigger on an idea that doesn’t work out, you’re equally responsible for the outcome, good or bad.
Suck it up. It takes money to make money and sometimes you lose.
9. Reward Creativity
This can be individual rewards and also rewards for the entire team. Give something back when employees come up with a stellar idea. A free movie night for two (so they can take a friend or spouse), a pizza party or trip to a theme park for the team…
There are limitless ways to reward good ideas.
10. Act on Ideas
“Man who waits for roast duck to fly into mouth must wait very, very long time” – Old Chinese proverb
Your team won’t keep feeding you ideas if you don’t have your head and heart in the game. When an idea comes out of the company think tank, take immediate action toward making it happen. Otherwise, they’ll soon learn that their creativity is wasted on you and the flow will soon stop.
Gears Photo via Shutterstock