Innovation is simple, but it certainly is not easy. Last week we introduced you to Innovation Gamification. While March Madness is a great way to kick start innovation, it is important to weave idea generation and sharing into the framework of your company – effectively making it second nature.
I'm sure you're thinking: innovation sounds like a great concept in meetings (or articles such as this one!), but it is challenging in practice. GreatAmerica employs the following five strategies to transform innovation from an abstraction to something sustainable, concrete and actionable:
Strategy #1: Make it part of the conversation.
Innovation should be part of your one-on-one discussions, team meetings, and email communications. Team members should know that innovation is encouraged and expected! Making innovation a regular theme reminds team members that this isn’t the flavor of the month, but rather the way to do business. (A competition is a great way to jumpstart the conversation – check out last week’s blog: Innovation Gamification on a fun competition to roll out an innovative culture.)
Strategy #2: Trust your team.
Front-line team members closest to the customers and the processes will have some of the best ideas of what is working and what isn’t. The worst thing a leader can do with an idea is come up with reasons why the idea will not work. That sends exactly the wrong message to your teams. Instead, listen to their ideas and then help them navigate the channels of idea implementation to reach a solution.
Strategy #3: Allow for experimentation and failure.
Beta testing isn’t just for new software or hardware. Experimenting with new ideas in a controlled environment lets you test the process on a small scale without widespread ramifications if it doesn’t work out. It also lets you tweak it as you go, ensuring that you work bugs out before rolling it out to a larger audience.
Strategy #4: Measure success and make it visible.
This is business, not a pre-school soccer game. We keep score because we want to win. If you are not measuring the success or failure of your innovations, how will your team members know if they are winning or losing? Don’t make the mistake of over-analyzing the data in a dozen useless reports. Rather, let your team members create their own scorecards. It might be as simple as a whiteboard that tracks turn-time or customer complaints. Put the measurement tool in their hands and see how that level of ownership creates a desire within them to improve.
Strategy #5: Recognize and reward innovation.
There are a number of ways to do this and they don’t all involve cash; a shout-out in a company email can be just as impactful. Give credit to individuals when their ideas are implemented or when somebody challenges the status quo. It’s important to remember these are human beings, and there is nothing quite like a sincere “thank you.” Gratitude done right will create loyalty far beyond what a monetary award can ever do.
It’s easy to convince yourself you are too busy to promote innovation within your organization. By effectively weaving innovation into your organization, you can increase the reasons for customers to work with you. Think of it this way: when your competitors’ clients come to your website, are they going to compare your prices, or the innovative way you can take care of them?
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