Innovation means coming up with something new: a better way to perform an existing service, a new product that improves on an older one, or a more efficient process that replaces a more complicated one. Businesses create innovations by observing their customers and filling a need that hadn’t previously been met.
Establish Open Communication
Encouraging innovation requires open lines of communication with employees. People on the front lines of the business often have the best perspective on better ways to do things or new products that customers need or want. Employees must feel supported and rewarded for experimentation and risk-taking, even if it fails. Product development presents opportunities for success and failure that occur between the initial idea and its execution. But a business can’t advance without balancing risk with innovation. Establish a process to capture great new ideas and a means of acknowledging the effort, clarity about how ideas are vetted, and a procedure for implementation or development.
Provide opportunities for employees to learn new aspects of the business, interact with diverse and different teams, and work on different projects. This can fuel creativity and provide new energy to teams that benefit from new perspectives.
Provide Vision and Direction
If you run a service business, great ideas in manufacturing might not have direct application to what you do. Employees need a clear sense of the company’s goals and vision. Identify and prioritize issues that you need to address to help your company grow: unmet or unspoken customer needs, competition that requires a new way to differentiate your business, and shifting market demographics are all issues that employees can immediately grasp. The leader’s job is to provide context. Present a vision of the mountaintop, and creative employees will find the best path for the ascent.
The only bad idea is no idea at all. Open communication, a clear path to evaluation and development, and rewards for risk-taking and the freedom to fail are all essential tips for innovation in your business with an engaged, creative workforce.