How and Why You Should Encourage Innovation in the Workplace

Innovation is the backbone of every successful company – so how do we inspire it in the workplace?

Jacqueline believes flexibility and collaboration stirs innovation at the workplace. Here's how she inspires this at work.

To me, a flexible, creative and collaborative environment is the backbone of innovation in the workplace – and a big differentiator for businesses.

 

When interaction is encouraged between employees, it builds trust and strong relationships. New thoughts and ideas are encouraged. This sparks curiosity, which leads to brainstorming new ways of doing things.

 

All of this ends up motivating teams even further, and inevitably, innovation follows!

Learning innovative thinking

Many people believe they have to be born with a particular mindset to be innovative. This isn’t true – innovation can definitely be taught! Companies just need to cultivate the right culture.

 

It’s about getting people to learn by actually doing, and following this up with reinforcement. We need to encourage open and honest communication between team members. These widen the scope, push the boundaries of change and lead to better results for everyone.

 

So, my advice is to try challenging employees to come up with new approaches to tasks instead of going with the standard solutions. You’ll be amazed how much you can stimulate innovation by promoting this kind of freedom and flexibility in the workplace.

 

 Also encourage everyone to engage in off-script and ongoing experiential learning and collaboration. This is how we teach, and learn, the skill of innovation.

Leading by example

As a leader, there are a few important steps you can take to promote innovation:

 

  • Develop a cross-functional team (employees from different parts of a business unit) to brainstorm business solutions, technologies and processes improvements. This effectively stretches people’s minds to create and innovate alternative solutions in a diverse new team.
  • Encourage team members to share new ideas and feedback by setting up meetings, suggestion boxes or online suggestion forums. Forums where peers can share viewpoints and ideas provide feedback on work and higher quality output. This kind of platform gets the creative juices flowing and enables information sharing and ideas across the board.
  • Be honest and open when sharing ideas and exploring new initiatives. Do this with an open heart. The best way for leaders to handle mistakes is to provide encouragement, not just tolerance. Mistakes are part of every creative process and making room for them allows for innovative thinking. An honest approach helps encourage employees to take risks and not be scared to make an error.
  • Make the effort and time to connect, coach, mentor and develop team members. Leaders should also constructively challenge their thinking, strategies and behaviour through the lens of innovation.

What our innovative culture looks like at Siemens

  1.  Speak up culture – At Siemens, we form groups of up to 10 people per division/hierarchy to brainstorm new, innovative ideas. Within these groups, team members feel free to express their thoughts on an issue. Everyone can be confident that their ideas will be heard and recognised by a leader who truly values their input.  
  2. Ownership initiative – We promote taking ownership when new challenges or opportunities arise. This is shown through our various strategies, like the recent “How to Improve Our Office Environment?” project. Many ideas were consolidated from this venture - a weekly fruit basket for employees to share, a creative area set up in the office, upgrading the current water system and setting up a weekly sports day.  
  3. Transparency and accountability – By evaluating every initiative we undertake, we are able to be transparent and accountable for the outcomes. Ownership is about initiative, while accountability is all about the follow-through!

Everyone is capable of innovation given the right tools. Leaders can create an open, creative and flexible environment that encourages innovation and when they do, the benefits to the business are fantastic. 

 

I’m curious to know – what does a culture of innovation look like at your workplace?