In order for a culture of innovation to thrive at your company, you need to do much than simply say that you are innovative or that you support innovation. Innovation can be in all of your talk, but it needs to be in your walk otherwise it will walk out of that door. Here are three ways to ensure that innovation will never flourish at your company:
- Talk about it incessantly, but do nothing about it: There are many, many companies in this space – they talk the talk but when it comes to walking the walk, there is no way for employees to innovate. The most common mistake is saying something like “everyone innovates” or “if you have an innovative idea, talk to your manager” – first of all, not everyone wants to innovate – some people are simply not born inventors – they are either not interested in innovating or they truly can’t come up with great ideas. Yes there are people like that. but for those others you need to provide a way for them to reveal their innovations: and just doing it to their managers is usually not enough. Or its possible that they may worry about what their manager may say if they were to reveal their innovation. So it’s important to have an outlet for innovation, outside of talking to a direct manager.
- Have employees reveal their ideas, but pay lip service to doing something about it. It’s great that you have an obvious innovation program which extracts interesting and innovative ideas from your employees, but if after these ideas are surfaced, nothing happens to them, then your employees will, after the initial surge of ideas, start to clam up – and they will keep their ideas to themselves and/or eventually leave to implement them elsewhere. In addition to doing something about the ideas – process them in some way – there needs to be open and honest communications about the ideas.
- Take care of your inventors: those people who are generating those amazing ideas which could propel your company into a new space with huge new revenues, or protect it against your current and future competition, need some loving care. Talk to your inventors, reward your inventors (it doesn’t even have to be monetary, in my experience, simple corporate or department wide recognition for your ideas may be good enough) but at the very least, make sure that even if you don’t move on their ideas, tell them why. Don”t just leave them hanging, thinking that their ideas just fell into some black hole.
It all comes down to having a process in place that not only extracts and sorts the ideas, but also fosters open and honest communication with your inventors. Additionally, they need rewards for their efforts – and feedback that they are on the right track, you value their contributions, and you would love to hear more.