Sacha Ferrandi, Founder and Principal at Source Capital Funding Inc.
Being innovative is the goal of most business owners. Companies that have new and creative ideas seem to thrive while others just struggle to keep up. Whether your business is large or small, new on the scene or well established, being the first to introduce new ideas, services, and products should be one of your main goals. So how do you go about encouraging your employees to be innovative? Here are some ideas that are sure to get your company working towards your innovation goals.
Show them you value new ideas…
Your employees should feel without a doubt like you value new ideas. They need to know that they will be rewarded for both following procedures and for coming up with new ideas or plans of action. Regularly ask your employees if they have any ideas. When they do, give them permission to try those ideas. If the experiment fails, focus on what was learned and be excited by the process. Demonstrate to your employees that you value learning from failures as much as you do from successes. Celebrate and reward efforts even when they don’t turn out as hoped. Doing this will create a sense of trust within your company.
Another way you can help display to your employees that you value new ideas is to stay focused on outcome more than on procedure. For example, if an employee is helping a frustrated customer, and they feel they have an idea that would both alleviate the customer’s concerns and maybe result in a future sale, that employee must feel confident that you won’t be mad that they didn’t follow exact procedure in this one situation. If they are worried they will get in trouble for addressing the problem in a different way, then chances are they will not be willing to tailor their response to the situation and the customer may be lost for good. Remember that employees who have seen a situation many times often have great insight on new ideas, products, and techniques, but those ideas are often lost to fear of getting in trouble for changing an established approach.
It starts at the top…
For your employee to truly buy into the idea that thinking outside the box will be valued and rewarded, they must see that the leaders of the company are trying to do the same thing. This doesn’t mean they need to see only the successful attempts. What really helps is when they see you take a swing, and then miss. Or more to the point, your reaction, and the reaction of other leaders within the company, to those misses. If you show that you understand that not all great ideas in theory turn into great ideas in practice, and that you value the learning process, your employees are more likely to follow your lead.
You never know who in your company will have the next great idea. Be open to listening to all ideas. Set aside time specifically for brainstorming. Just be sure to set some very wide boundaries that help to keep everyone on task. Let your team know the purpose and the goals of the company so that they have a clear understanding of what you are hoping to achieve. Your goals should be to send your team off in the right direction, but not to give them specifics on how to reach the final destination.
They can’t be afraid…
It can be really scary trying something new at work. Often the risk can result in lost time and money. Many employees are nervous to take chances that can result in losses for a company.
Demonstrating to your employees that you are willing to shoulder the burden of mistakes, big and little, relaxes some their fears and allows them to voice their new ideas. Let your employees know that you believe there are great things to be gained in an experiment, even if some money or time is lost along the way. Take time to discuss the issues with failed experiments and use them as a jumping off point to try something else. Let your employees know you like learning, even learning from mistakes.
All this talk about learning from mistakes might have you seeing red. It isn’t that you have to lose lots of money to be innovative, it’s just that you need to let your employees know you can handle it if you do. Some things you can do to try to keep losses small include having a test environment, dry runs, and small launches for new products and ideas. Work as a company to brainstorm ways to hedge off any disasters. Taking the time do this as a team will just increase their confidence in themselves and will keep them invigorated and invested in continuing to come up with new ideas.
Facing challenges with new and unexpected solutions and consistently introducing new products and services to your customers is what makes a company thrive. Once your employees believe there is more reward than risk to being creative, your company will have a vibrant energy that will set you up for long-term success and growth.