How do you cultivate innovation in the workplace?

In any business or organization, innovation is important for a number of reasons. Be it creative problem solving, new marketing methods, strategies for employee retention, or any number of important leadership initiatives, innovation is key.  

In this issue of the Pulse, we look at ways employers and managers can cultivate innovation in their workplace.  

Innovation starts at the door.  

Hiring a wide range of applicants, from different backgrounds and experiences, is critical to fostering a culture of innovation. This brings a multitude of perspectives to your team, which is key in sparking innovation.  

It’s important to be aware of this because many of us unconsciously tend to hire people with similar backgrounds and thought processes to our own. But, as innovation strategist Alex Gonzalez told the World Economic Forum (WEF), it’s dangerous “not to bring a multitude of voices, values, thought mechanisms, needs, and belief systems to the innovation gallery.” 

Be committed to constant learning.  

According to Deloitte, “high-performing learning organizations” are 92% more likely to innovate. Meaning, along with having a Learning & Development team on staff, it’s important to be committed to the lifelong learning and skill development of each member of your staff.  

This includes ensuring employees have access to the necessary resources, such as time, tools, training, and technology, to pursue innovative ideas and skills-development.  

Foster openness, belonging, and collaboration.  

Innovation is a natural conclusion of inclusive, supportive teamwork. It can only result within an organization where belonging, acceptance, and collaboration are a priority. The security that comes with a sense of belonging and acceptance leads to curiosity, which then fosters innovation.  

Your organization can help foster this kind of environment by encouraging open communication and valuing and acknowledging employee input, ideas, and feedback.  

Resist micromanagement.  

The death knoll of innovation can often, unfortunately, happen when middle management micromanages their staff.  

According to the WEF, “micromanagers tend to use the authority of their position to control how work gets done, create unnecessary bottlenecks, and focus on employees’ weaknesses and failures. All of this has a negative impact on engagement, productivity, and teamwork.” 

Encourage risk-taking.  

Innovation can only happen when employees feel safe to experiment, make mistakes, adjust, and try again. That’s part of why micromanaging is so detrimental. If your employees don’t feel safe to take risks, they will never progress, innovate, or come up with solutions to new problems.  

Recognizing and rewarding this innovation is critical in encouraging more, as well. Celebrate successes and publicly acknowledge individuals or teams who have made significant innovative contributions. 

Establish cross-departmental collaboration.  

It’s important to foster collaboration and knowledge-sharing across different departments and teams. Encourage employees from diverse backgrounds and skill sets to work together on projects, as this can lead to fresh perspectives and innovative solutions. 

In conclusion… 

Innovation is crucial for the longevity of any business or organization. There is a lot you can do, as an employer or manager, that unintentionally stifles innovation. Proactively taking steps to foster curiosity, problem-solving, and collaboration among your staff will greatly aid overall innovation.