Recently at CareerPlug we’ve been focusing a lot more on our core values as a company.  Each month we take one of our values and recognize one another for how we are embodying that value in our daily work.  I recommend it – it makes values more than a sign on the wall and allows our team to positively reinforce the work we do.  November’s value is “Innovate & Learn Continuously.”

I think innovation is a great word – a powerful one.  Innovation is arguably the driving force behind entrepreneurship, success, and business as a whole.  From the macro levels (someone decided to put a camera in a phone, for example) to the micro (maybe we can cut down on all these spreadsheets?), innovating at work is a long-standing tradition that moves business forward.

Proactive organizations recognize the importance of consciously innovating and permeating that philosophy throughout all levels of the company. Innovation becomes part of the culture … after all, asking someone to innovate doesn’t flip a switch in their creativity where they automatically spit out the best results.  Innovation comes from an environment where ideas are heard and creativity is encouraged.   And not every innovation is a breakthrough, but rather most are a series of small steps.

So what can you do to foster a workplace where innovation happens both purposefully and organically?

Ask for Ideas:  Rather than thinking about innovation as a top-level exercise, encourage all your employees to submit their ideas.  This involves creating a reliable system for accepting, responding, and acting on new ideas.  Employees who make their voice heard – even if it’s not an idea that’s right for your organization – deserve to be acknowledged.  At CareerPlug we hold a monthly innovation meeting where everyone in the company brings new ideas for improvements.  For smaller companies, this is a great opportunity to present and foster ideas.

Be an Accessible and Open Leader:  As an owner or manager, you are the source for a positive culture within your team.  The spirit of innovation does begin with you and if you are closed off to your team, chances are they won’t feel comfortable coming to you with new ideas for innovation.  Strive to create an open a free-flowing line of communication in your office – an “open door” policy is a good beginning.

Encourage Diversity:  Assemble teams of people with different passions, backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives.  The best innovations rarely stem from homogenous groups of minds.  Hire for talent, diversity, and culture … this combination will help you build a skilled, creative team.

Reward Failure:  Or, reward ‘smart’ failure.  Recognize employees for trying something new, even if it doesn’t work out.  Give your team permission to fail as you give them permission to innovate.   By creating a space where employees don’t fear messing up when they try out new ideas, creativity and innovation is allowed to flow more freely.

Simplify, Simplify:  Red tape, drawn out approval processes, disjointed systems of communication, bureaucracy and some more bureaucracy … not exactly the words you associate with creativity and innovation.  The secret is to get out of your own way . . . where do you see over-complication in the workplace?  Innovation can start there.

What does innovation mean to you?  And what do you do to foster an innovative work environment?

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This post was originally published on the CareerPlug Blog

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