Every workplace needs a little more innovation to carry it into the future. The top performers in your office might have been with you for years, and they’re probably used to the way you’ve always done things.
If your original company culture never held innovation as a core value, it’s time to make some changes. This means it’s time to get rid of a lot of the everyday processes you take for granted and allow the imaginations of your employees to fill the gaps.
Ideas can’t grow and people can’t contribute if they’re all sprawled out in different corners of the office space. In order to promote the flow of innovative energy, you’ll need to make sure that everyone can get together and use each other as sounding boards. Hold more meetings with a freer structure. Ask your employees open ended questions, and listen to their concerns. They may have noticed things that were holding you back that you previously weren’t aware of. This will give you a starting point for improvement.
Give Employees Creative Space
Most employees don’t view their office as a place to be creative. This can be a direct result of the environment. Plain white walls and short pile blue carpet don’t exactly get the gears in the brain moving. Encourage your employees to decorate the office. Hang posters, bring in fresh flowers, and maybe even paint the walls a brighter color. Turn your workplace into a studio for creative minds to flourish.
Eliminate the Fear of Failure
In business, we’re taught to exercise great caution around risks and only accept the sure thing. That’s great when you’re working with a generic plan, but generic plans don’t have the ability to do something great. Not every change you make or innovation you attempt is going to work, but you may not know unless you try. Start by implementing small changes, and recognize the things that aren’t working. You’ll be able to determine which risks are smarter risks, and feel more inclined to take them. Failure is inevitable sometimes, but it’s never the end of the world.
Cut Out Some of the Structure
Routines and habits keep the workplace together, but people won’t explore issues from different angles if they aren’t encouraged to do so. Welcome critiques about the way you do everything, and listen to the criticism from your employees. If they think they have better ideas, give them the floor to do things their own way. If it doesn’t work, you can always fall back to your tried and true system. If it does, see if you can take those innovations one step further.
Never Shoot Down an Idea
People aren’t inclined to share their ideas if they fear the rejection of those ideas. Not every idea will win, but it’s the way you handle the bad ideas that will keep the winners flowing in. Rather than immediately rejecting a bad idea, ask the person who provided it a lot of questions. If you keep asking for the specifics, the person will eventually run into the error of their ways. When they find the part of the idea that doesn’t work, encourage them to find a workaround rather than dismissing the idea entirely. They’ll either patch up the holes in the plan, or come up with something new. They won’t walk away feeling shut down or incapable.
Innovation is a process that takes time to start, especially if you need to change your culture to make it happen. As long as you’re patient and take small steps towards the end goal, you’ll begin to see your culture shift into the culture of the future.
With a background in business administration and management, Tess Pajaron currently works at Open Colleges, Australia’s leading online educator. She likes to cover stories in careers and marketing.