How To Spark Innovation In The Workplace: Part 3 of an Innovation Series
As creatures of habit, we tend to rely on what we know. We do what we’re used to and we do it the way we’re used to doing it. While this isn’t necessarily a problem, it can be a roadblock in the workplace. Relying on what we’re used to, whether it is a process or technology, is guaranteed to hinder a company’s success. Companies need to continuously innovate in order to remain competitive in today’s marketplace, and this pursuit must begin with the leadership’s approach: their acceptance of venturing into the unknown rather than sticking to what they know.
As a conclusion on our Innovation Series, we asked The Northridge Group’s leadership team to provide insight into how to encourage – (or spark!) – innovation in the workplace.
Therese Fauerbach, Chief Executive Officer
LISTEN TO EMPLOYEES – Ideas for innovation can come from anywhere in the organization, so it’s important to make time to talk with employees and listen to their viewpoints. Some of the best ideas bubble up from those closest to the work. For example, we recently completed an initiative to re-energize one of our service offerings. It relies on technology to connect our consulting teams to our clients’ internal systems. One of our IT interns discovered a technology that would improve the way our workforce could securely connect with our network and the networks of our clients. The device takes up less space than the traditional technology, it is extremely flexible in its applications, and it can be deployed at a fraction of the cost. In today’s world, the rate of change with technology is amazing. By listening to our intern, who had the time and curiosity to research new technology options, we implemented a great new idea.
Daren Moore, President
TAKE TIME TO INNOVATE — Innovative organizations are the ones where time and resources are set aside to innovate. Often, the people who could drive innovation are prevented from doing so because they’re responsible for ensuring the current operating plan is fulfilled. The first step is to identify team members who can drive innovation and then give them the time and resources to formulate new and creative ideas. Successful organizations tend to have a process to assess and advance innovative concepts. Not all ideas are great. Quickly assess, pick one to pursue, and provide the time and resources to ensure it is successful. Make small innovative changes initially. Reward those who make it happen and highlight success in order to encourage an innovative culture.
Marriann Cole, Chief Strategy Officer
ALLOW FOR FAILURE – To spark innovation you must have an organization where failure is acceptable. Organizations that only value success breed a culture of mediocrity. Creative thinking is hindered when only the safe path is allowed. Employees need to be encouraged to raise new ideas without fearing the consequences of failure. This means that leadership must create a culture that says “we embrace new ideas and recognize that every idea is not going to be a home run”. That said, organizations also need a process for trialing new ideas and testing innovative concepts. This makes it safe to suggest new approaches without betting the farm. And often a failure that might come from trialing a new idea can lead to tremendous learning and generate the next great new idea.
Leo Lanzillo, Chief Financial Officer
ENCOURAGE CURIOSITY — If you create a culture that encourages people to try new things, whether it is a new process or new technology, you will foster an environment where innovation is accessible. If your team tries something and it works, great, keep enhancing. If your team tries something and it doesn’t work, move on. (It’s as simple as that.) The important takeaway here is that an organization has to encourage its team members to innovate – not only by trying new things but also by re-educating themselves to ensure they don’t get stuck in antiquated ways of doing things. If you provide the path and resources to allow employees the opportunity for continuous learning, if you encourage them to try new things, if you don’t punish them for failures, they will become your internal sparks of innovation that drive your business to new levels of success.