Evey business wants more innovation. But how do you get it the right way? We spoke to Stephen Fortune, Principal Consultant at The Oxford Group (part
Evey business wants more innovation. But how do you get it the right way? We spoke to Stephen Fortune, Principal Consultant at The Oxford Group (part of The City & Guilds Group, a global leader in skills development, which enables people and organisations develop their skills for personal and economic growth) who has worked with clients including The Children’s Trust, Legal & General, Sainsbury’s and William Hill about his key learnings around innovation. For him, it’s a topic that many businesses aren’t 100% on:
“Despite innovation being one of the latest buzz words in businesses with leaders and managers striving to achieve high levels of it, a surprisingly high number of organisations are unclear on how to bring about and maintain successful innovation and creativity. ”
If you’re ready to lead an innovative workforce in this competitive and ever changing world – read on!
Know the real meaning of the word
Innovation is a word that gets bounced around in business meetings and reviews, however, few leaders actually understand the true meaning of the word. The ideology behind innovation is to combine thoughts and ideas with expert knowledge from members of staff to build a new concept. Innovation is often confused with the phrase ‘creativity’ which is defined as a way to facilitate innovation and although preferred, it isn’t necessary.
If managers don’t truly understand the meaning of the word, they are likely to mislead employees and take the focus away from what is important, restricting them from reaching their full potential. It is far too easy for business leaders to get caught up with their meetings, reports and organising members of staff that they forget to take a step back and think about if and how innovation and creativity are actually taking place in the office. Initiating innovation is often seen as a back burner and less important than maintaining high-profit levels and low staff turnover, however, this shouldn’t always be the case.
Turn your autopilot setting to the off position
If I were to ask ‘Do you remember your journey to work this morning?’ the answer is probably no. This is because we run our lives on autopilot, switching off when we do mundane, everyday tasks that require little thought, leaving us with no room for creativity and innovation. Switching off can prove efficient when we are completing monotonous tasks but can also hinder us in the workplace when thought and imagination should play a role.
In order for innovation to take hold in the workplace, leaders need to switch off this auto pilot setting and consciously think about what is going on around them. Innovation is a process that’s most effective when started from the top and is allowed to filter down so members of staff need to clearly see their managers taking more time to think about potential ideas and changes to the systems before they will also adopt this way of thinking.
Build strong, trusting relationships
Strong and trusting relationships between everyone from the business owner to managers and part time staff is essential to creating a culture where innovation plays a significant role as everyone feels able to express their ideas. In order to achieve these solid relationships, managers should take the time to speak to each member of staff individually and show an interest in what they are doing. This doesn’t need to be lengthy, just five minutes here and there to show appreciation and an interest in their work. Welcome any ideas and thoughts, big or small. This encourages people to ask any questions to their manager and sound out ideas they might have so that they can be supported in developing them further for the company.
Promote a culture of creativity
Formal and rigid office environments can make innovation within the workplace a challenge at the best of times. Members of staff might avoid putting forward an idea because they fear rejection. So make sure that your organisation structure and processes don’t get in the way of people expressing their ideas.
A creative culture also needs to take into consideration the physical office environment. So many offices have empty, grey walls with no pictures or colour in the room creating few ideas for inspiration. Pictures, plants and models all help to create a creative space which sparks interest.
It is important to note that even with these four tips, not everyone in the organisation will adapt to this change immediately. It will take time for employees to welcome the change but persistence is the key to success. If leaders highlight the benefits and importance of innovation, other employees will soon follow and want to become a part of the change.