Innovation is one of the hottest topics in business today. Many successful companies have gotten to the top with innovation – Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Uber, to name a few – sparking many other organizations to want to duplicate their success.
Innovation is defined as a new idea applied for positive impact. Innovative companies are able to continuously develop great ideas for new products, ways of working or new strategies.
The importance of innovation in business can be broken down into two key areas:
1. Efficiency and Increased Value
Organizations need more than good products. They also need innovative processes to drive down costs and improve productivity.
By improving productivity and efficiencies in production, innovation increases the values of the products and services.
2. Competitive Advantage
Innovation is one of the primary ways to differentiate your product from the competition. To make your business stand out, you will need innovative products and ideas.
Innovation can create competitive advantage by providing new technologies and services. To ensure you beat the competitor to the market, your company must look for new opportunities and get there first.
Innovation does not happen without strong leadership. Trying to build an innovative culture without effective leadership would be similar to building a house without a foundation.
Amazon would not exist without Jeff Bezos and Apple would not be the company it is today without the late Steve Jobs.
A good leader supports their employees as they strive for greatness by setting achievable goals, providing tools for success. The leader’s job is to lead by example and encourage positive change.
Innovative leaders have big ideas and the ability to motivate the people around them to turn these ideas into reality.
Innovation takes more than skill. It also requires the right culture and system.
Here are some tips on how to structure your leadership style in a way that will aid in inspiring innovation and forward thinking throughout the organization.
What Innovative Leadership Doesn’t Look Like
If you want to encourage innovation in your organization, your actions need to match your words.
Certain management practices send employees the message that innovation is not encouraged.
To promote innovation rather than squash it, avoid these management practices:
- Do things the way they’ve always been done and not be open to new ideas
- Don’t recognize or reward innovation
- Keep employees out of high-level vision and strategy discussions
- Punish employees who take risks
- Discourage employees from learning new skills
Before you hire someone for a management role, do your due diligence and look into their past experiences.
Speak to a past colleague of theirs and get some insight on how they were as a leader.
Do a background check to really get a sense of who they are as an employee through their different experiences.
What Inspires Innovation
Certain leadership styles are more compatible with encouragement. A Harvard Business Review study identified 10 distinctive behaviors setting innovative leaders apart from others:
- Display excellent strategic vision.
- Have a strong customer focus.
- Create a climate of reciprocal trust.
- Display fearless loyalty to doing what’s right for the organization and customer.
- Encourage a culture of upward communication
- Persuasive and highly-effective at getting others to accept good ideas.
- Excel at setting stretch goals requiring employees to find new ways to achieve a high goal.
- Emphasize speed over lengthy studies by large committees.
- Candid in their communication, providing honest feedback.
- Inspire and motivate through action.
Change Things Up
If the routine remains constant and never changes, employees become bored and lose interest.
To encourage innovation, create an environment conducive to creativity:
- Create new ways to solve problems or complete menial tasks
- Consider an open-seating area where employees can meet and discuss new ideas
- Carve out certain times of day as “new idea time”
- On a nice day, take employees outside to help them gain more inspiration
- Allow employees to be flexible in their work schedules as people work best during different times of the day
Build Trust and Communicate
Communication, trust and openness are important ingredients to building a culture of innovation.
If employees don’t trust each other, then innovation will fail. Communicate effectively to all areas of your business to break down the barriers to innovation.
Make sure your team knows their feedback and ideas matter, and they are free to share ideas and challenge processes and procedures.
Believe In What You Do and Show It
Employees take their cue from their leaders. Enthusiasm can be contagious.
If employees see you displaying passion for your work, they will be encouraged to find the same passion and enthusiasm in their work, which can lead to innovative ideas.
Build a Positive Culture They Want to be a Part Of
To ensure innovation occurs regularly, it needs to be intentionally built into the organization’s culture. A culture of innovation empowers employees to share their ideas.
Encouraging everyone to participate in innovation will inspire creativity and tap into potential you didn’t know was there. When the next big idea comes along, start implementing immediately.
If employees are motivated to come up with new ideas and improvements, they will see the ideas through to execution.
They will also be excited to come to work and be more productive – and innovative.
Practice What You Preach
To promote innovation, every person in your organization needs to apply innovative thinking to their work – including you.
As a leader, you need to set an example for the entire team.
Model the innovative and creative behaviors you want to see in your team and encourage them to follow your lead.
Now Over to You
A leader’s role in innovation is essential. Whether or not innovation is supported within the organization rests on their shoulders.
Encouraging innovation will not only help build a strong foundation for creativity and new ideas but will also have a positive impact on productivity and will help your organization attract, engage, and retain the right talent.
How Do You Encourage Innovation?
If you have ideas you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!
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