Bright ideas: Encouraging innovative thinking in your business

Bright ideas: Encouraging innovative thinking in your business

A fresh perspective: we look at how to encourage a culture of ideas and innovation in your workplace.

Albert Einstein once said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” What better motivation could there be, then, for encouraging your staff to think innovatively?

 

Innovation means making changes by introducing new ideas, methods or products, and it can go a long way to keeping your business competitive, fresh and responsive to change.

 

How can encouraging staff ideas help your business?

You no doubt hired your staff because they are intelligent, adept and skilled in their field. When you nurture their creativity and curiosity, the business can gain valuable insights and innovations.

However, as your business grows, it’s easy to become settled into routines and roles. Often, people talk amongst themselves but have limited opportunities to express opinions to their managers, let alone the boss. In worst-case scenarios, staff end up leaving because they feel they’re being underutilised or ignored, while the boss had no idea there were problems.

By encouraging your staff to share their skills and interests in the workplace, you could discover a wide range of initiatives that correspond to both problems your staff observe and what they feel they could contribute. Whether it’s creating an app, arranging flowers or starting up a new digital marketing campaign, any suggestion should be carefully considered and given a chance to be implemented.

 

Innovation grows in fertile soil

It’s difficult to be receptive to someone’s ideas when you’re about to make an important phone call or buried in your own work. Ideas need room to grow, both physically and mentally.

Where possible, have a space in the office that’s designated as being open for conversation. Fill it with light, plants, comfortable furniture and plenty of whiteboards, notepads and pens. Then, prompt people to use it.

Whatever the size of your business – whether there’s two people or 200 ­– you can develop a culture of innovation:

  • Hold regular sessions where ideas are presented and discussed.
  • Ask for help on specific problems as they arise. You might be surprised at the quality and enthusiasm of the response.
  • Swap roles from time to time. There’s no better way to experience someone’s frustrations, identify roadblocks or uncover better ways to do things than when you’re walking in other people’s shoes.
  • Be open-minded. Even the most seemingly bizarre suggestions might be tweaked into effective action.
  • Encourage staff to discover new information, technology and industry trends.

Need proof that shaking things up works? Facebook’s iconic Like button came about through a company hackathon, where employees get together in all-night sessions to collaborate on ideas.

 

Support failure and encourage success

Nurturing supportive attitudes is critical. If staff know they will be heard in a non-judgmental environment, they will be more likely to express their thoughts and ideas.

If an idea doesn’t work out, try ‘floating’ it in an open forum to see if there are lessons to be learnt, or adjustments that could improve it. 3M’s Post-it Note was not an instant success; it didn’t solve its inventor’s problem, then sat for years until another 3M scientist saw a way to put it to good use.

Celebrate all successes, large and small. A change to the way the tearoom works might be just as important to staff wellbeing and morale as a new sales approach is to the company’s bottom line.

Both you and your staff want your business to be successful. By developing a culture of collaboration, respect and enquiry you will not only build the business but ensure that everyone is rewarded with a sense of pride and achievement.

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