How Your Workplace Should Approach Innovation
‘Innovation’ is a concept that is commonly heard around the workplace, but how should it actually be approached? It is easy to instruct your team to be innovative, however a number of other factors should be considered before doing so. For example, does your workplace culture embrace risk and new ideas? Read on to find out how your workplace should approach innovation.
What exactly is ‘innovation’? The Australian Government defines innovation as ‘renewing, changing or creating more effective processes, products or ways of doing things’. In a business context this can refer to implementing new ideas, improving existing services or creating dynamic products. Innovation is not the responsibility of one person in a workplace; it is something that all team members must be aware of and working towards. It is a fundamental business practice and is just as important as any other. It is important to remember that innovation isn’t easy – it takes strong focus, willingness to fail and sometimes a bit of luck.
Create a culture for innovation If organisational culture does not embrace innovation, there is a strong chance that the organisation can stagnate in the market. Company culture must be one which embraces the suggestion of new ideas, irrespective of their feasibility. When employees feel comfortable in sharing new ideas, the creative process really thrives. Culture must also celebrate productive mistakes – this can stimulate thoughts and generate new ways of doing business. If leaders do not allow for failure, they don’t provide scope for innovation. If employees are working towards something that they believe in, they tend to work much harder and put all their efforts into solving the problem.
Listen to feedback Some of the best ideas are often derived from the feedback of those most crucial to your organisation – your customers. Customer feedback can be easily overlooked and placed in the ‘too hard’ pile however this should not be the case. The Boston Consulting Group’s 2013 study of the most innovative companies concluded that ‘strong innovators listen to customers; the views of key customers play a significant role in the innovation and new product program of 73% of strong innovators’. Although the process of listening to customers seems very simple, it can often get lost in larger more hierarchical organisations. It is important to ensure that when customer feedback is collected, instead of just collating the responses, the information must be passed on to the relevant teams and followed up. This knowledge is some of the most valuable that a company can obtain in order to make future strategic decisions.
Failure is the foundation of innovation James Joyce once said ‘mistakes are the portals of discovery’, and this has much relevance in the context of innovation. One of the keys of innovation is to embrace failure; it is after failure that approaches and results can be analysed and improved on. Mistakes can be used to create insights and stimulate new ideas. Failure must also be accepted as a part of the innovation process; even with valid data, there will be some ideas which will not succeed. Being able to rebound from failure and continue to innovate is what makes the large corporations of today so resilient and successful. In a Forbes Magazine article, Professor of Business Administration Edward D Hess adds that ‘innovation requires a mindset that rejects the fear of failure and replaces that fear of failure with the joy of exploration and experimental learning’.
Plan your approach It is not good enough to say, ‘okay, let’s innovate’ – a clear plan and strategy must be in mind. Plan out which areas of your business need attention, do you need a new product? Or perhaps can an existing service be changed to better suit current needs? Will this encompass creativity, risk taking, collaboration or a customer focus? When planning your approach, specific metrics must also be put in place in order to measure and track your efforts. It is best to integrate the plan into current organisational missions or values so that the end product does not stray dramatically from the path in which the company has planned to take. Planning ensures that objectives are clear from the beginning, and helps in the evaluation process after the implementation.
Innovate or say goodbye In today’s ever-changing and fast-paced business world the unfortunate reality is that every company must be open to innovation and change. Even if your product is perfect for current consumer needs, there is bound to be an area in your organisation that needs to innovate. For example, your marketing department may need to innovate to keep up with technological advances, or similarly your way of doing business may change from in-person transactions to online. Although innovation is difficult for larger, more established organisations, it is just as important. As the well-known phrase suggests, ‘the only constant is change’ – resources should always be dedicated to innovation in order to keep up with the market. What do you think? How does your workplace approach innovation? Do you think that it is important to continually innovate, or do you feel it is unnecessary? Share your views below and join the conversation!
This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources have been used to prepare this article: Inc. Magazine; Boston Consulting Group; Brainy Quote and Forbes Magazine.