How Business Leaders Can Foster an Innovative Work Culture
Companies are in need of new ideas to gain an advantage in the game.
If there’s one thing that sets a successful organization apart, it’s the ability to stay on the cusp of innovation and technology.
Creating an innovation-friendly work environment was one of the top priorities on my entrepreneurial journey. With that realization came the understanding that I would need to face the challenges, as well as the chance that I might make some mistakes along the way. Failure is, after all, an important part of the process.
The tactics I’ve used to create an innovation-friendly work environment have proven to be a productive ground for success. Now I’m paying it forward and sharing the lessons I have learned with you.
What is an innovation-friendly work culture?
An innovation-friendly culture is the kind of work environment that encourages its employees to embrace unorthodox thinking rather than discouraging them from it. To nurture an innovation-friendly culture means putting the status quo aside and challenging typicality to create something new. It means empowering your employees to provide value to your company in ways other than punching numbers and updating spreadsheets at a desk.
Your employees will look to you for leadership and mentorship, so it’s important that you guide them on a more creative path and show them what a healthy and idea-centric work culture is.
On the contrary, strict management is the death of creativity. Many organizations have a crippling work culture where they penalize rather than reward boldness, while also failing to cultivate an environment that promotes creativity and innovation. Thus, they eliminate any chances of breakthrough ideas and promising success.
The importance of an innovation-friendly work culture
Innovation-friendly work culture is an expression of ideas and behaviors. It’s easy for businesses to take the simplest route and repeat their business processes as it allows them to scale smoothly and predictably, but this also comes without any promise of explosive growth or the creation of groundbreaking concepts. Incorporating a culture of innovation means taking risks and being unpredictable with a chance to reap huge rewards — which is why it is not all that common in organizations today.
To make things run smoothly, most businesses favor what they know, standardization and doing things simply. Innovation, however, takes the road less traveled. As rationality doesn’t select innovation, it can be considered risky, but following the safe low-risk route will not help you build a unicorn company and change the status quo.
An innovation-friendly organization is an amalgam of culture, methodologies, infrastructure and healthy work practices. It prompts employees to think outside of their nine to five mentality, giving real value to their roles.
Leaders in an organization that encourage this kind of culture understand that innovation drives growth, and a workforce can only achieve this with a growth-positive attitude and shared passion for operating outside the norm.
How to create a culture of innovation?
With technological advancements popping up in every sector of industry, there has never been a better time and a more urgent need to incorporate an innovation-friendly culture in your organization.
You must develop a culture that kindles a passion for new knowledge and bold ideas, paving the way for more creativity to flow through. Make innovation culture an important part of your company’s DNA and let it act as a framework for every corporate activity.
Here are some ways you can foster an innovation-friendly work culture:
Encourage new ideas
To cultivate a culture of innovation, you must encourage action on creative ideas. Let your employees feel valued, like they have some autonomy in the idea creation process. They should be able to feel safe to share bold or crazy ideas that come to their mind. Trust your team to find new ways to solve problems.
Create a safe place to fail
If you’ve never failed, you’ve never taken chances. Taking risks is a big part of innovation. You have to remind your employees that failure is inevitable and every idea has a degree of uncertainty, and you can do this by creating a safe environment where you encourage your team to test their innovative ideas and even make mistakes that do not cost the company a huge fortune. The important thing is to learn from your mistakes to ensure that you don’t fail the same way twice.
If you hold back on ideas because of the fear of failing, you’ll stay confined to the monotony of the status quo and your business will never make any significant leaps. The important thing to remember is to recover and try again.
Encourage healthy competition
You can hold pitching contests for your employees and develop new ideas that they will be asked to present in front of management. This will instill a sense of confidence in them whether they win or not. Healthy competition is an interesting way to train your employees for pitch meetings. The winning idea can be rewarded as well, but the real reward would be the skills they picked up in the process along the way.
Through workshops, employees can be directly involved in the creative process and work in teams to develop new ideas and solutions. Not only will this cultivate team spirit, but it will also encourage employees to be on their best game and commit to delivering.
Learning through trial and error
One of the most useful forms of learning — trial and error — allow us to analyze our failures and figure out what’s needed to make that necessary change. Then you try again with a better mindset, knowing what works and what doesn’t. In fact, one of my favorite job interview questions is a failure story and lessons learned.
Don’t be afraid to execute your idea
Innovation is not recognized until you implement your ideas. To execute on top of these ideas, you need to empower your employees with a morale boost and the right budget and tools dedicated to bringing such innovative ideas to life. Strategize a clear action plan for execution and go for it.
Embrace positive thinking
This is one of our fundamental principles at 3DLOOK (and one of my main personal principles as well), because as an entrepreneur, I’m always an optimist. Through trial and error, we were able to persevere by embracing a positive outlook in anticipation of making the world better and transforming the industry that we work in — that is what kept us going. Diving into innovation with a positive attitude will allow you to take on new challenges and rise above any self-limiting beliefs.
Innovation is the foundation of growth. With that said, innovation doesn’t stop with one good idea. There is a lot of hard work that goes into establishing an innovation-friendly environment. It requires the input of the leaders and employees and a clear execution plan for the successful implementation of these creative ideas. The goal should be to create a future-oriented atmosphere with employees hungry for opportunities to grow and improve within the organization. This will ultimately help the business succeed.
Set an example for your team. Prepare them always to hit the ground running and never to shy away in the face of adversity. Encourage your team to be courageous with their ideas and tread unchartered waters. Mold their mindsets to embrace failure and use that to be bolder with their next steps. Build an appetite for better ideas and never settle for anything less than bold.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor