business innovation

9 Ways Your Company Can Encourage Innovation

Every game-changer ever began as someone's idea. Configure your workplace to nourish your employees' little insights. The benefits can be bountiful.
9 Ways Your Company Can Encourage Innovation
Image credit: Peshkova | Getty Images
Guest Writer
President of ARETI International Group
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Today, innovation is all around us. From exciting new technologies to new startup business models, the very idea of innovation is taking off just as fast as the businesses that embrace it. In the U.S. alone, 63 percent of companies have hired chief innovation officers and over 90 percent of businesses are using new technologies to help them implement the innovation process.

But not all companies are prepared to push innovation within their organizations. Changing workplace systems and procedures requires resilience and flexibility, and it’s an unfortunate reality that many people are afraid of or continue to resist change. So how can you turn the tide and embrace innovation at your company?

There are many easy-to-implement ideas that can help creativity and passion flow within your organization, one's that can ensure your company doesn’t get left in the dark ages.

1. Intrapreneurship.

Coined in the late 1970s, intrapreneurship is an old term that’s now really starting to take off. An intrapreneur can be defined as someone who thinks like an entrepreneur but brings their ideas to the company where they are employed instead of launching their own business.

Related: Big Companies That Embrace Intrapreneurship Will Thrive

You can encourage intrapreneurship at your organization with such simple steps as establishing where your employees can go with their ideas, instating a "no idea is a bad idea" policy, gathering support your employees need to try out their ideas, and letting them pitch decision-makers at your company.

2. Fifteen percent time.

Fifteen percent time is a term invented by William McKnight at the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, or 3M, as it’s known today. This policy allowed employees to spend 15 percent of their paid work time daydreaming, doodling or experimenting with ideas that didn’t necessarily have to do with their work at the company.

As McKnight knew and many other business leaders have since discovered, this kind of daydreaming is the genesis of invention and fosters passion for one’s work.

3. Reward experimentation -- even failure.

Going along with McKnight’s 15-percent-time rule, leaders of innovative companies know that beyond just giving your employees time to experiment, you should also reward innovative habits. Nothing kills creativity faster than the fear of failure, so as much as you should celebrate the success of any experimentation, you should also celebrate the failures.

4. Encourage research.

Along with encouraging your team to experiment, encourage them to do their own research as well. Let your employees’ personal interests and passions do the leading as they look into new technologies, reading articles and writing reports for your company.

5. Employee forums.

And where should your employees present their research? Where better than in an employee forum? Taking a page from Google’s book with Google Cafés, create a forum unique to your company.

Related: Google's 20 Percent Rule Actually Helps Employees Fight Back Against Unreasonable Managers

Whether it’s a weekly all-staff meeting or a company bulletin, foster a space where employees can meet across teams to discuss and present their research, experimentation or intrapreneurial ideas from their 15 percent time.

6. Shake things up.

There’s no better way to get your employees thinking outside the box than to assign them new and exciting projects outside the scope of their daily activities. While some employees may initially react with a fear of failure, ultimately they will be engaged by the chance to try something new in your supportive “no idea is a bad idea” work environment.

7. Don’t put yourself in a box.

The most successfully innovative companies know that they are more than just their products and services. Instead of only defining your company by what it sells, identify your assets and strategic skills. As an added bonus, your employees will be inspired to feel that they are more than just their job roles, as well.

8. Utilize vacation time.

American workers, already known for having fewer vacation days than workers in other countries, are taking less and less vacation time, and it’s not a good trend.

Beyond the myriad of health benefits associated with taking vacation, time away from work can actually make you more productive. Studies show that certain activities that foster a truly unplugged environment, such as hiking in nature, can actually boost creativity by up to 50 percent.

Encourage your employees to use all of their vacation time despite work pressures so that they come back to the office refreshed and full of new ideas.

9. Be a progressive leader.

Lastly, there’s no better way to encourage innovation in your company than to lead by example. Innovation starts at the top -- leaders should be role models for workplace passion, positive outlook, clear direction and vision, and of course, embracing change.

Related: How Small Companies Can Innovate Like Big Enterprises 

The future of your company is decided today. If you feel your company is being left in the dust by fast-moving, innovative competitors, have no fear. Fear is the number one enemy of creativity, and as we’ve seen, encouraging creativity is the key to embracing innovation at your company.

There are many ways that you can start to bring innovation to your company, and major change doesn’t happen all at once. Start small, with any one of the above ideas, and slowly layer in more until your company is a pinnacle of creativity and innovation.

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