How to create an environment that fosters innovation

Thought Leadership on Team Building presented by Terrapin Adventures, LLC

Companies that cannot break free from traditional thoughts and approaches regularly go the way of the dodo. Yet companies still struggle to create an environment that fosters innovation, but where work fundamentals are still completed.

So how do you find the right balance? And then, how do you make that part of your culture? Finding your balance is a matter of defining your industry, your needs and your strategy. For companies like Coke, new innovation in, say, product development is not that important. Their industry and their strategies are not innovation-driven. On the other hand, for companies like Google, creating the next big thing is the way to remain dominant in the marketplace.

After defining how important new ideas are to your business and environment, the next step is figuring out how to create a culture that generates the innovation you need. Google is famous for free and flex time used to develop new ideas. To them, the lost time spent on ideas that do not come to fruition is worth it because of the innovations that do pan out. While most companies cannot move to such a free policy, there are still many steps your company can take toward fostering innovation. Here are five such steps:

1. Make it clear that your company values new ideas. The simple step of directly addressing employees and conveying that you do want to hear new ideas has a dramatic impact.

2. Set up a system to allow new ideas to be presented. Whatever system you create, whether it be direct emails or suggestion boxes, a venue to convey new ideas is necessary for people to be comfortable.

3. Be receptive even to ideas that you cannot accept or implement. Not all ideas can work. There are innumerable reasons why a company cannot move on a new idea. The way in which you respond to these ideas will determine how comfortable people are at suggesting new ideas in the future. Clearly, if you are outright dismissive or cold, you will convey to employees that you are not open to new ideas. If, however, you give a thoughtful response even to unworkable ideas, you will encourage new innovation.

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