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Encouraging Employees for Innovation

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When we talk about innovation, companies don’t just look at traditional research and development for innovations or cracking new campaigns, but simple ideas from their employees to help drive the organization forward. It is the responsibility of the managers to make their employees innovate. Though not a simple job, managers can try and assist their employees to get more innovative and think unconventionally. Some of the most common ways are by:

  • Helping the company create an innovative culture by giving employees the time and resources needed to develop a new mindset, skills and relationships.
  • Understanding the corporate innovation strategy and aligning your projects to this strategy.
  • Focusing on people and not just concepts, processes and ideas.

To encourage employees, managers should lead by example. Along with their employees, managers must be willing to demonstrate innovative ways to become efficient in their daily job responsibilities. Innovative role-modeling and providing vision can lead to idea generation by employees. Communication is another important aspect that an organization needs to keep in mind if they want their employees to come up with innovative ideas and thoughts on a regular basis.

The easiest way to put this to practice is by organizing feedback sessions. Once feedback is received from the client—whether positive or negative—the entire team should come together to face the consequences. This will not only spark creative thinking but also enhance cross-department relations. Managers should ensure that they motivate their employees to innovate on every project or campaign they handle. Lastly, employees who successfully innovate and show results must be rewarded. Acknowledgement towards the employee’s performance and giving him or her much-needed recognition before the entire team is something that will encourage the employee to perform better and put in more effort in upcoming projects.

Innovation in today’s corporate world plays a key role. Vital reasons why a company or business needs to innovate every now and then are for the continuous change in environment, evolving society, customer desires and the advancing technology. If a company launches a 5-megapixel camera with an internal 1 GB memory, its competitors will innovate and launch a product that surpasses this one.

Innovation, new ideas and concepts every now and then demand proper and effective training be given to employees by the organization. The more we take care of a healthy green plant, the greener it gets. Akin to a plant, our brain too needs its regular dose of ideas and knowledge to stay active and creative.

Do share your thoughts with me on this.

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  • How do we encourage employees to be innovative?
    Step 1: Ask “What do you think?”
    Step 2: Listen to their ideas!

  • Simply, All You Gotta Do Is Ask. Hey I wrote a book on it. Also see The Idea Generator by Norman Bodek and Bunji Tozawa and Ideas Are Free by Alan Robinson and Dean Schroeder.

  • Bridget Cleary

    I believe part of the answer is understanding how innovation occurs. Innovation and creative problem-solving (simple idea generations that solve efficiency, process or resource challenges) occur in environments that incorporate that thought leadership into that culture. Employees who feel it’s a part of their duties will have the ‘permission’ to come up with ideas, will feel empowered to be a part of the company’s change and if their managers support and champion their ideas they’ll be more likely to continue to produce thoughtful solutions and innovations for the company.

    Company support of this is paramount (especially from the top). Perhaps adding specific, actionable items on employee’s performance reviews related to innovation and simple solutions (such as: created, assisted or championed idea that eliminated redundancy within department) could send a strong message to the group that this is a part of their job. And, giving them TIME to do it. Google allows employees to spend 20% of their time on projects of their choice. 3 M did this originally, and that’s where the idea of the Post It Notes came from (stat from ‘Drive’ by D. Pink). If that’s unrealistic, what about adding a Timesheet code called “INN” for innovation, and allowing employees a few hours a quarter to bill time against it? Sure, it’s overhead, but think of the potential value of giving employees the time to help make your company better, stronger or more competitive (especially from a talent retention standpoint as it creates an evironment that openly values their input and talent)?

  • People will innovate if given the opportunity, so I’m wary of the sentiment to “make their employees innovate.” Encourage and facilitate, yes. Make? Probably not.

    I will say that, in my observation, 80-90% of what we need to do everyday to be successful is pretty routine. Not necessarily easy, but something that just needs to be done and done well everyday. I once commented that I need the majority of my folks to just come in, do a good job, and then go home to come back rested and renewed for the next day. I only needed about 10% of my folks (at any one time) generating new ideas and innovations. These would help us break new ground and generate new capabilities – but not so on a scale that everything else we did would be disrupted by the constant change.

    Bruce

  • Suman

    Interesting! In my opinion a lot of employees are creative and innovative. Its just that most organisations do not provide a formal platform or resources to put that creativity into action. In most cases, it is the managers themselves who prohibit their teams from any implementing creative solutions for the reasons of failure (also fear of delaying other tasks at hand) in their already established career. Senior leadership in any organisation can play a very important to facilitate and fire that creativity down the line. Especially by providing a platform and opportunity to innovative thoughts.

  • With reference to Asma’s article and comments from others especially Bridget Cleary and Suman. What Bridget has said/opined are the Facts. Innovation and Creativity is difficult to find in the routine jobs. To be InC we first require to identify core area, the steps by step study of process involved, interaction with the personnel involved in the process and urging them by way of meetings and discussions as to why they follow a particular procedure and what if it is done other way round. Such type of discussion can be healthy in bringing about innovation. Team of top management executives should be formed to oppose the existing system and discuss in detail and suggest alternative or absurd ways to perform a particular process. Such type of discussions with the personnel involved would help bring in new ideas for change either in system or technology, process. It can be any sub function of process right from receipt of raw material to process to production to packing to despatch. Companies at the end of the day by holding series of such discussions definately would able to being in change in the process and thereby reduce cost to company/more production etc, which is the underlying idea behind creativity n innovation.

    Manish

  • You need to create a culture for Innovation. Create an environment for innovation. Try reading up on how Boeing, P&G, J&J do it. Its really simple.

  • We use a monthly scoring system to evaluate employee preformance each month and incorporate employee “business ideas” or innovations into the scoring system. Ideas that are implemented score twice as high boosting the employees rating and compensurate reward. Asking employees for ideas and then reqarding them for their answers has created a culture for us that moves employees to analyse how they do their work and the tools we provide them, ultimately resulting in incredibly successful improvements in all aspects of our company including the unintended results of employees that better understand the how and the why of our business and alignment of employee and administrative goals.

  • April 15, 2010
    QUESTION: Ayesha asked the question:
    “How to get employees to be more innovative and creative?”
    ANSWER:
    I once tried something as a project manager that turned out to be very effective along these lines. I was writing an article about my team’s technical findings on a project we were doing, and I got the idea to ask 2 of my team-members if they might like to co-write the article, and see their name in lights! It was very exciting because it was the first time that they each got to be published, and paid for writing. It also worked out as very creative and motivating on the project itself, in several ways. First, the creative process of producing the article in itself was motivating for the team. And also, this carried forward into more creativity and motivation on the project itself. And it also provided an element of team-building to the project.
    Jeff Furman, PMP Project Managment Instructor / Book Author

  • Example: In previous employment I invented a process and designed an application for flower/plant seeds to be applied into an in-line converted Direct Mail or Inserted printed format. This was produced by two fortune 500 companies while I was at that employ. My initial contract came up with no renewal due to economic conditions, thus I never received any compensation for my innovative process other than being named as inventor on patent application. When I took my next job I made sure that I applied for a patent on another format I invented that allows “Flat” rate formats to be mailed at “Automated” USPS rates.
    So, maybe motivation should include financial reward other than an “Atta Boy” certificate

  • Hi, nice article. I think you’ve done a great job at pointing out a few key tactics. I have used some games with teams to warm up their creativity and innovation. Setting a problem solving game in front of a new team can be used as an ice breaker, but it can also be a brain waker even in teams who work together consistently.

  • One of the reasons Toyota is so successful at innovation is because wvery new hiree undergoes a 2 week induction session designed to teach the Toyota Production System. At the core of this trainint is continuous improvement. In an organization where everyone is practicing and fostering continuous improvement, you can only get great ideas.

    Another trend out there is the implementation of idea management software in order to bring structure an transparency to the innovation process. Many companies, like P&G, Dell, Adobe, and others are applying this software in open innovation format to engage their customers and seek out the next great idea.

  • Time has come to develop competency in think innovatively on demand, sometimes in realtime. To learn new behaviors, education is the first step. We have developed a set of training programs offered throught IIT, Chicago for teaching professionals business innovation this includes thinking creatively. This can speed up development of innovative solutions as much as 1000 times.

  • Companies need to make sure they are not asking for ideas and then discounting them out of hand. I have had some of my ideas lost in Priority Committee limbo, or dismissed due to cost issues even when in the long term the project would save time and/or money. Or the unit that always gets the money has beaten you to it again. When you are told no without discussion too many times, you stop trying. Instead, have a conversation and a meeting of the minds. And then make sure that the money isn’t directed the usual pet division. Also, listen to your seasoned employees on the line who work with the problem everyday.

  • One issue today is the pressure that employees are under. It is difficult for people to be creative when they are exhausted and do not feel secure in their job. Too many managers are taking advantage of the poor economic conditions. Piling more responsibility onto fewer people with no compassion or empathy. Employees are sleep deprived and under great stress. This does not foster creativity.
    On the employee/innovator side, often the best ideas die with the innovator. The innovator is so worried about getting paid or at least getting credit for their ideas, that the idea never comes to light. We all need to be less selfish, mind our egos and see the value of individual and collaborative contributions that could bring a company to the next level. Pay attention to human sustainability. People cannot work 70 hours per week for years on end under unrelenting pressure.

  • Its a usefull article which i got inspired to do my presentation and practically motivatd.

    Well done ASma !