These are the 2 key ingredients to creating an innovative culture:
Make it clear that it’s part of everyone’s job to think of better ways of doing things, and create a system to capture people’s ideas. Grow and assess them, and find the best ones and implement them.
1. Make it clear that innovation is part of everyone’s job
What motivates people? Sticks and carrots! The carrot is that it’s empowering for employees to be given permission by management to think of better ways of doing things. If you ask people to do this, it adds a whole new creative and empowering dimension to their work.
However, it’s also something extra - and if there’s no accountability for this sort of innovative work it will continually be bumped to the bottom of the pile, to be done after everything else. This often means that even those with good intentions won’t get to it, because they are too busy doing everything else.
That’s where the stick comes in. I don’t mean some form of heavy punishment. I mean that if you want your people to be innovative, you need to make them accountable for that work in the same way that they are for their other work. Don’t treat innovation as something extra people can do if they have spare time after they have done everything else.
Make innovation a KPI for everyone. How then, do you measure it? Everyone needs to come up with one innovative idea a month. It doesn’t have to be a great idea, it doesn’t have to end up getting implemented into the business, but it does have to be something.
2. Create a system to capture and grow ideas
If you want to harvest ideas from your people, create a system that makes it easy to do so. If someone has an idea, what do they do with it? One answer is that they pitch it to their manager in no longer than 2 minutes or one page. Managers can set aside one half-hour period a week to listen to pitches.
What happens next? Perhaps the manager makes an assessment of whether the idea has the potential to improve the way the organisation does things. If it does, the idea is developed, and then re-assessed at each stage to see if should be further resourced.
Think of it as a pipeline, with lots of ideas going in at the bottom and the best emerging at the top. Failure is seen as part of the process, rather than as a stigma. The best ideas are then implemented into the business.