By: Jeffrey Fermin
Real innovation will starts with your company culture. Your shared values will help your business grow while stale company culture can sink you entirely. Your company culture can change in subtle ways over time but there are many ways to keep your infrastructure on task and in line with your overall mission. Simply stated, a good company culture drives innovation.
Buzzwords fly off people’s tongues faster and farther than one can spit. Some words are sensationally silly but many words have set themselves apart and demand your attention and reflection. In the business world, no other word quite rings (and let’s be honest, stings) quite like the word “innovation.”
And for good reason. To quote the great company culture catalyst, Tony Hsieh:
“I view my role more as trying to set up an environment where the personalities, creativity and individuality of all the different employees come out and can shine.”
An innovational mindset is absolutely essential in a market that now rides on the best and brightest minds in technology, economics, and best-business practices. Innovations puts new products into the hands of happy consumers. It streamlines complicated processes and helps heighten employee engagement and overall happiness. Ultimately, innovation is what keeps your company cutting edge.
Whether your company is just starting off or whether your established business needs a new trick and some serious organizational dusting, innovation can be a serious entrepreneurial catalyst.
Innovation starts with defined values
Values are always going to drive the majority of your company’s priorities and decisions. Your values will be reflective in how you collectively spend your time and money. Your employees should have a clear sense of your expectations, long-term goals, and values.
Truly innovative companies will, in turn, create a mission statement that rests on an entrepreneurial mindset that promotes creative and continuous learning. Your values will not only be promoted through your annual reports and overall company presentation, they will also be manifested in how people behave and spend their time in your shared common space.
It is never too late to redefine your values. Let employees know what your big dreams are and ask them to take part in their creation.
Great CEOs understand that innovation will not thrive under a regime of micromanagers. After you have defined and circulated a company mission that details several guidelines, it is time to shift your attention towards creating an innovative climate.
Innovative climates are set-up to cultivate engagement and enthusiasm. Your company culture should challenge people to take risks within a safe environment. You should be finding ways to foster employee’s continual education and independent thinking.
There are some simple and easy ways to change the space so that you can foster creativity. One simple way is to remove cubicle walls and allow the employees to face each other. You can add places for structured breaks or side-projects. If your budget allows, replacing office walls with glass windows can help facilitate innovation since you will seem more approachable.
However, these changes will mean little to nothing if they are not coupled with a habituation of trust. Employees will not take risks if they do not feel secure.
In an operationally-minded world, companies often try to eliminate as many potential business risks as possible. But if you want to innovate, risks are inevitable. Risks take a certain level of trust because if people get penalized for their failure, they are going to quickly move towards higher and “safer” ground.
Leaders: your essential resource
So many business tools are now automated and it is easy to find ways to replace human labor with various types of apps and technology. Yes, a lot of these programs help us streamline our lives but an innovative company understands that human resources will always be their most valuable asset.
Before taking stock of current employment, it is always a good idea to reflect on your company’s hiring process. Ask yourself:
- Is my company taking time to seek out and hire talent?
- Are we finding employees who believe in our mission and services?
- Are we hiring people that will add to our company culture in a positive way?
- Are there ways we can improve on our hiring process?
It is always important to keep an eye out for “innovation champions.” Among your many awesome employees there will hopefully be a few leaders that you can truly count on. These people are critical. They tend to have a powerful impact on the organization’s value and overall climate.
If you find leadership potential in one of your employees, find ways to challenge him or her. Put them in charge of a variety of tasks and invest in their leadership skills. Your innovation champions will be able to carry your company into uncharted territory. They are most certainly worth the extra time and investment.
Taking calculated risks
It’s already been stated: innovation means being open to taking risks. But what is a calculated risk and how do you sort out ideas with potential from a larger company pool?
First of all, many people believe that the creative process is simply about intuition. However, intuition results from large inputs of regular and useful data. True intuition is helpful but it is habituated over time.
Company risks can feel like base-jumping but in reality, there are many different levels of analysis that should be taking place before a decision is reached. Obviously, there is numerical research and analysis (i.e. what sorts of items your target-market buys, etc.) but a lot of companies also do ethnographic or cultural research. This type of research might not be able to be crunched out in a spreadsheet but that sort of knowledge can be invaluable to a creative team.
After lots of research and debate, it is time to make a decisive call. At this point, it doesn’t pay to be wishy-washy. If you trust the structures that have been built within your company culture, you can feel confident that you are getting the best ideas that are promoted through trustworthy leaders and that have been thoroughly researched.
You may fail.
Failure, unfortunately, is a part of life. But a well-formed company structure can take a lot of the guesswork out of the changes that have stemmed from your newly minted innovative mindset. Don’t forget that great thing come out failure. All great innovators have failed and that’s what has allowed them to succeed.
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. – Thomas A. Edison
In conclusion, it is important to remember that the success of innovation can really be captured at three levels.
Externally, you may receive recognition because your company is regarded as innovative by its customers and competitors.
This may occur even if your innovative ideas were not paid off in a financial gain. Generally speaking, your success will reinforce your enterprise or company’s creative and organization structures. This means that individual employees can feel personal responsibility and happiness in the overall achievement of their employers.
Innovative success is not an overnight decision. It takes hard work and dedication. However, if innovation is truly one of your goals, taking steps to change your company culture will ensure your and drive your company’s success.
About the author
Jeffrey Fermin is cofounder of Officevibe, an employee engagement platform that encourages collaboration through team building activities. When he’s not working on his product, he spends the majority of his time reading, writing and meeting new people.