By: Madison Sanders
Innovative and forward-thinking companies are successful because they have new, exciting, and useful products or services before others and consumers take notice of companies regularly producing the next big thing. These companies are more effective and they can grow more rapidly because their company culture encourages innovation among their employees. A company of “intrapreneurs” can quickly become a successful and noteworthy company.
But how can you foster this in your own organization? Here are a few methods that businesses have implemented in the past that can help you bring further innovation within your own company:
Ask for Ideas
One of the best ways to get input and innovation from your employees is to ask for it. Have your employees prepare pitches for new projects and products. Create an internal system that will allow your employees to pitch regularly. Provide incentives for submitting good pitches. Choose the pitches you like the best and give guidance to the person who pitched the idea to help them move from conception to implementation.
This was a method used successfully by a non-profit named Project Concern International. Classy named them in one of the top ten innovative non-profits of our generation. PCI has created over 100 innovations through this process. Pitches must have at least two of the three following criteria to be considered innovative:
- Make a current product or process obsolete
- Improve value by at least 50%
- Be beneficial to employees, donors, or beneficiaries.
Allow Employees to Devote Working Hours to Inventing New Things
Corporate behemoth Google has a 20% policy that has contributed significantly to the enormous success the company enjoys today. The 20% policy means that employees have the option to take up to 20% of their working hours and devote that to working on new, innovative projects. This policy has led to some of the amazing projects Google has done today.
Allow Your Employees to Make Mistakes
If employees are scared about making mistakes, they will be less likely to work outside of their comfort zones and come up with new and innovative ways to improve the company or new and innovative products and projects to sell.
Simple Smart Science sought to remove the fear of mistakes by not penalizing them. The employees actually have weekly meetings to discuss some of the mistakes employees have made, not to humiliate them, but to talk about how it happened, what the outcome was, solutions for the mistake, and what they should have done differently.
Simple Smart Science founder Russel Lundstrom discovered that after weekly team meetings took place to discuss mistakes, the fear of making mistakes was removed and employees were more willing to work outside of their comfort zones and be bolder with their innovations.
Ask Your Employees What They Would Do If They Were CEOs
College Hunks Hauling Junk asks every team member what they would stop, start, and keep doing if they were CEO or owner of the company. They also ask what the number one opportunity to take advantage is and what threat needs to be eliminated. Asking the employees these things makes them feel appreciated, valued, and empowered. This increases employee loyalty and boosts morale and productivity. It also gives the leadership team the ability to look at things from different angles and see threats and opportunities they may have otherwise missed.
Embrace Newer, More Efficient Technology
The 20% policy would not work for your company if your employees are barely able to handle their daily workload as it is. Inefficient and slow technology will consume your employees’ work time and exhaust and frustrate them. Having outdated technology and systems will slow innovation because of the lack of time and energy to create new things when the employees are still fighting and struggling with the old.
Use Beta Testing
Instead of immediately launching a product, use smaller beta tests to see how good the product is before launching it on the market. That way, if a product is not a good fit for the market after all, or it has some flaws that need to be taken care of, they can be solved before resources are spent on a full launch. Not only will this make innovation projects less risky, but it will also save money for future innovation projects.
Create an Innovation Team
Put together a small team of people whose sole job is to innovate and execute new projects. Companies like Change.org have done this successfully to push boundaries and expand. By giving a handpicked, carefully crafted team of people full freedom to devote all their time and resources to innovate new and exciting projects, they will be able to achieve greater innovations at an accelerated rate.
To conclude, even though efficiency is essential for a company, it cannot sustain business growth on its own. On the long run, organizations that foster creativity and advancement will be better equipped to tackle competition, as well as any fluctuating economic conditions.
By Madison Sanders
About the author
Madison Sanders is a visual merchandiser, a startup consultant, and managing editor at HeadquartersList, an online publication that features useful contact information for various retail, internet, and restaurant businesses.