Creating an Atmosphere of Innovation

March 22, 2019

Creating an Atmosphere of Innovation

Creating an Atmosphere of Innovation

The ability to innovate is essential for an organization's survival. Successful innovation isn't just about coming up with the next "big idea." Innovation is about owning, executing, and seeing the idea through to the end. This is how an innovative idea becomes a success.

How can you be sure that the right people or groups in your organization are responsible for innovation? What character traits should they exhibit? According to an article in Inc. magazine, "73 percent of innovation, strategy, and research and development (R&D) executives say that leadership support is the biggest enabler of innovation." Over 55 percent of the same executives cite that negative attitudes exhibited by management are the biggest barriers to innovation.

There are numerous examples of companies that undertake small scale innovation well. For example, Heinz ketchup is now sold in upside-down bottles to facilitate easy pouring. In 2004, McDonald's changed how it sold milk, moving away from cardboard boxes to plastic jugs made to resemble old-fashioned bottles. Milk sales tripled in just a year.

In order to tackle large-scale, transformational innovation, organizations must look at the market as a whole, and their place within it. In a study cited by Harvard Business Review, research shows that large organizations with large amounts of money to invest in R&D don't necessarily see the highest rates of return (measured by sales). Take, for example, Proctor and Gamble who boasts a research and development budget of $2 billion annually (the largest R&D budget in the world). Researchers concluded that, despite spending, P&G has had "far more failures than hits." Here are some suggestions on how an organization can promote and sustain innovation initiatives.

How to Promote Innovation

Employers and employees alike thrive when working in an innovative environment. However, barriers such as bureaucracy and a shortage of ideas often exist. Are these barriers impossible to overcome? Not if an organization is willing to support innovation. Here are some areas to promote:

  1. Allow great ideas to rise to the top by simplifying the process from idea to implementation.
  2. Encourage all ways of interaction, including approachable and accessible managers and job rotations.
  3. Foster a culture of creativity and experimentation, where everyone is encouraged to be creative.
  4. Promote collaboration by providing workspaces that encourage discourse such as small seating areas, cozy conference rooms, and plenty of coffee.
  5. Support and nourish diversity and varying points-of-view throughout the organization.

How to Sustain Innovation

Sustained innovation comes from a clearly defined purpose unique to each organization. As innovative ideas develop, a clear sense of purpose enables employees to take risks and propel an organization ahead of its competition. Here are some ways to sustain an innovation:

  1. Clearly state and define your organization's purpose that, in turn, will allow all employees to focus on innovation.
  2. Keep multiple lines of communication (both positive and negative) open. This can include frequent emails from leadership, weekly newsletters, podcasts, information posted to an internal webpage, and frequent face-to-face gatherings.
  3. Infuse a sense of ownership to encourage innovative thinking.
  4. Promote an inclusive atmosphere that is protective of taking risks and learning from failure.
  5. Create company policies and procedures to codify creativity and innovation.
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