Innovation is not a one-time act, like finding a new product, but a phenomenon that nurtures a culture propelling growth on an on-going basis. It prepares an organisation to reach unexplored heights. So, setting up a culture where people can share ideas on a frequent basis with their managers, subordinates or colleagues could provide the company with the fuel to propel growth.
However, keeping your organisation “innovative” is a difficult mantra to master.
Innovation needs to be driven from the top. The top management needs to be ‘curious’ enough, and open enough, to create an environment in the organisation where most people could say that being creative is an essential part of their role. An idea from any person working in any department that could help increase efficiency, shoot up sales, drive down costs, lead to development of a new product or give ideas to tackle competition. Each one of these ideas is worth a shot even if it involves an effort of looking at maybe, and hopefully, thousands that flow in.
How can an organisation set up a culture where people can share ideas? For starters, ideas are shared if there is a platform where they can be openly shared and are encouraged. This could be tackled in various ways by different organisations.
One way this could be done is that all the employees are asked to submit an idea to their managers as and when they get one. Their case could be related to anything, from starting a new product line, discontinuing of an out-dated product, cost control, or operational efficiency in any of the departments. The manager upon reviewing those ideas, can decide whether or not the idea is worthwhile to be shared with senior management.
One serious downside to this exercise is the manager’s discretion on sharing the idea with senior management. He might think that the idea is not worthwhile, while the senior managements, who have a view of the larger scheme of things, might have different thoughts. The manager may also not share the idea on personal grounds or pass on the idea as his own.
To mitigate this, management should encourage a platform, where ideas could anonymously or otherwise be shared by any employee with a senior management committee. The committee could meet regularly to review the ideas shared by the employees. Though it could take some of top management time, the benefits of such efforts not only lie in terms of profits that the company can earn or the costs that it could save, but also in employee satisfaction, as they know that they can reach the top management and would also be given due credit for their idea. Allowing people to submit ideas anonymously allows them to share ideas, even if, they are not confident of them.
Other than above, some other things an organisation can do to encourage ideas and innovation are to ensure recognition and incentive to employees whose ideas are adopted.
Also, if information about the working or performance of the company as a whole is shared with the employees through a newsletter/ weekly meetings/ intranet updates, it might trigger them to share ideas or experiences which might be helpful in departments/functions not directly related to them.
Other than the above methods there could be various ways an organisation could inculcate the culture of generating new ideas like holding inter or intra departmental brainstorming sessions, holding war games to strategize about dealing with the competitors, etc. But the key is that this culture of curiousness should come from the top.
James Cameroon after his deep ocean dive to lowest point on earth said, “To me, the story is in the people, in their quest and curiosity and their attempt to understand.”