FOSTERING INNOVATION IN THE WORKPLACE: CREATING THE SPACE FOR NEW IDEAS

Welcome to another blog post.

If you have topics that you’d like for me to discuss in future newsletters or specific questions from previous ones, please send your comments/questions to jh@jerryhermanleadership.com.

In today’s fast paced world, innovation of product or management approaches or other elements of your organization is an essential prerequisite to success; in fact, absent innovations on a regular basis, organizations can fall behind their competitors and goals.

If you are  in a position of leadership with your organization ask yourself…”Do I or others foster innovation within my organization?”

If you can’t answer that question or if your answer is no, then this is the newsletter for you. Leaders must be able to foster innovation and creativity in order to get the most out of a team.

What fosters innovation in the workplace?

Maintain an open dialogue with employees

An open dialogue between all levels of management will effectively motivate and engage employees. Always allow your employees to present their ideas without shame. Provide feedback to employees, even when their ideas are not used, so that they know that they are not being dismissed and to show them that their opinions matter.

In fact, over 20 years, some of the best innovations in the operation and attention to guest services at our hotels came from line employees such as the breakfast server or bellmen.

Leaders should also encourage communication between departments: Collaboration between members of different departments often results in creative solutions to problems.

Fostering a culture of respect

The workplace culture is characterized by relationships that cross both functional and hierarchical power lines as well as constructive conflict, where different or divergent opinions can be openly expressed and discussed. By creating a culture of respect between leaders and your team it requires you to build true two-way communication.

Ways I successfully fostered mutual respect in my former company’s hotels ranged from including : having the employees of  the month participate in management meetings; running monthly idea days or lunches at which topics selected by employees were discussed; and having an employee holiday party where the managers served the employees. Little “touches” can make a huge difference in fostering an environment where ideas from all are respected.

Create a “Un-Safe” Environment

I know what you are thinking…wouldn’t you want to create a “safe” environment for your employees? In this scenario, playing it safe no longer gets results in the business world! As people we have a natural tendency, especially under pressure, to feel a certain amount of anxiety and fear. If ideas don’t scare you, then what’s the point? I’m not saying that we need to always do the crazy thing or force discomfort on to our employees, but make them and myself and other senior leaders  think outside of their comfort zone.

“If we’re not making ourselves uncomfortable from time to time, we’re not pushing ourselves to the creative edge.”

– Jonah Sachs

Ideas best flow from the bottom up not just top down

Using a bottom-up approach is the most appropriate for fostering innovation and creativity in the workplace. Innovation is based on participation and relies on a variety of ideas by involving EVERYONE in the organization. When such wealth of information is needed, matching the ideas from lower levels with those from leaders makes for collective decision-making. It’s the approach that can spread a culture of innovation within the company, making it easier to pave the way for an internal change.

Building a culture of innovation and collaboration begins at the top! As a manager/leader, you provide both positive and negative extrinsic motivations for your employees. When a leadership team is fully engaged, they can create powerful change which results in more productive employees, better communications, higher engagement, and improved profits.

Innovations  need to get attention by effective communications–ie, “storytelling”

An excerpt from an article by Julian Birkinshaw of the london Business School which appeared in a recent McKinsey Quarterly speaks of the importance of “good storytelling” —how people frame their innovation stories creates important differentiation and attract attention enhancing the likelihood of the  further advancement or the ultimate adoption of such innovation.

I hope that this article helped and that you were able to take at least one key takeaway that you can implement in your leadership style.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me and we can chat further!

Book recommendation on this topic:

The Three-Box Solution Strategy Toolkit
By: Vijay Govindarajan