How to Foster Innovation
Innovation is a very important aspect of running a business. It takes innovative thinking for an entrepreneur to get started and get the business off the ground to begin with; and it takes innovation to keep a business fresh and in a state of growth. Since so much business is conducted via the internet, small businesses are no longer just competing with local companies in their region but with global businesses. One of the keys to being able to keep a business alive is having an emphasis on innovation instead of getting in a rut of just doing things the old fashioned way.
According to the dictionary, innovation is defined as introducing something new, whether it is a method, an idea or a device. To maintain an innovative atmosphere it is important to create a work environment that fosters, stimulates and rewards creativity.
Business Model to Include Innovation
When developing your business model it must be a top priority to include innovation and creativity as core values. Employees need to know from the start that the company has an emphasis on innovation and that creativity is rewarded and not shunned. When you are drawing up the core values of the company do not be vague about innovative ideas. There is not enough to substantiate the thought in a simple statement like, “our company strives to innovate.” It leaves the employee scratching their head and wondering what needs to be innovated products or processes. Be very specific with statements.
Let Everyone Participate
Engineers can be great innovators; however do not limit innovations to just one type of worker. You never know when a great innovative idea for a product may come from an office worker or an accountant. Don’t discount their new ideas on how to process purchase orders or invoices. They may have some innovations that end up saving the company a substantial amount of money. An idea that leads to improvements may come from anywhere; it is important to encourage an environment which is open to innovation for everyone in the company.
Build a Creative Atmosphere
It is up to you to create a creative atmosphere. Use colors which stimulate creativity and make sure there is adequate lighting; natural light is best if it is possible. Use inspiring colors and hang artwork throughout the workplace. It is also a great idea to provide a variety of creative activities for employees. Providing the right environment can increase employee’s creativity and output. There are some companies which provide stimulating games such as foosball and pool to help keep employee’s creative juices flowing.
Designate Time for Creativity
Stuffing someone in a cold white office for hours on end will stifle creativity. Get your workers out of the office now and then. Perhaps one Friday a month take a group outing. This may depend on the type of work that they need to do but trips to the library, gym or even a local coffee shop can spark creativity. One book company we are familiar with takes their design artists out to local bookstores/coffee shops once a month. They take time to discuss the various book covers, the creativity or lack of creativity in the designs. This fosters innovative thinking.
Reward Creativity and Innovation
Make sure to reinforce innovative ideas. They should feel comfortable sharing new ideas and it is important that they get credit for the ideas that are used. Rewards do not have to be outlandish, gift cards are an inexpensive reward. It is okay to reward with money and some even offer a bonus as well as a simple, but public recognition of their contribution.
To foster innovation will mean that you create an environment where new ideas are welcomed and rewarded. It is not an expensive undertaking to design a work environment that stirs up employee’s creative juices and foster innovation that each person has.