Through developing a learning and innovation culture a business will aim to encourage employees and managers to think ‘outside of the box’ or look for unorthodox methods of thinking. In turn, this can work towards producing new ways of working, new products and new approaches to a specific industry.
Turn to Employees for New Ideas
As much as managers may rely on customer feedback to new ideas or to fix areas where problems may occur, we should actively invite employees to put forward their own ideas. This might be with a simply suggestions box where employees can leave their ideas anonymously, or by holding meetings with team leaders and their juniors. If employees can see their ideas being actively investigates (and where practicable put to work) they will become more encouraged to continue to think of new ideas. Of course, there will be times when ideas are either unachievable (due to time constraints, financial implications or because they do not fit with the company’s values), but nevertheless they are generally a very cost effective way of producing new ideas. Our employees are the people who are those who are actually carrying out the tasks required of them and are therefore in an excellent position to come up with suggestions which management or stakeholders may never have thought of.
Where possible, we should look at ways of allowing employees to test new ideas with as few obstacles as possible. Most managers are at some point in their careers likely to have worked at a company who spend a considerable amount of time holding meetings to discuss ideas, but little time actually putting them into testing (if they ever do)! If an idea is new, but can be safely tested without risk to the businesses in a financial or regulatory sense, staff should be encouraged to test these ideas. Equally, it is important that information is gathered to prove whether the idea has justification to be implement or produced going forward.
Accept that Failure Doesn’t Always Mean Failure
There is always a risk with new innovative ideas that they will fail. Although I cannot find any statistics to support my view, I think it is fair to say that there are many new projects will failed before they became a success. However, through failure, we learn and can teach our peers and juniors not to make the same mistakes that we did. Through this type of education, we can gather information to help improve the chance of the next project being a success.
Steve Jobs is probably one of the world’s most famous ‘losers’ but failed to give up. He and his team failed numerous times with their new ideas but always used the information from their failures to improve the next product. Eventually, he would become arguable the most famous innovators of the 21st Century; not because he got things right every time but because he never failed to give up.
“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.” – Steve Jobs
Walk in Customer’s Shoes
In the day-to-day work environment, it’s easy to forget about the main goal – servicing our customers – but at times this is exactly what occurs. This is why it’s vital to constantly reassess whether the service we are offering is what our customers expect.
Encourage Creative Thinking
I’m definitely not a fan of the phrase ‘blue sky thinking’, but to truly encourage employees to come up with new, radical ideas, open mindedness should be encouraged. In my opinion, it is this type of imaginative thinking which has helped to develop some of the most successful new business practices, concepts and products.
For example: 20 years ago, the idea that someone would be walking around with a small device in their pocket which holds 10,000 songs would have seemed impossible. Yet someone had the concept to imagine (and then design) the iPod which changed the way that billions of people purchase and then listen to music. Portable music devices were nothing new but it was only the advances in technology mixed with the creative ideas of employees of intuitive companies such as Sony and Apple which led to the development of the cassette tape, then the Compact Disc, then the Mini Disc and then portable MP3 format.
Recognise and reward creativity
A vital part of developing a learning and innovation culture in an organisation is to recognise and reward creativity, which in turn will encourage an employee and their peers/teams to also think or their own innovative ideas. In addition, this will increase staff motivation and result in a sustainable competitive advantage.