HOW TO CREATE AMBIENCE FOR INNOVATION IN AN ORGANIZATION

HOW TO CREATE AMBIENCE FOR INNOVATION IN AN ORGANIZATION

  • Can creativity and innovation be developed, or is it inherent in man? Galileo said, “You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself.” While creativity mostly comes out of the blues at the least expected times; innovation takes time and comes through a good working knowledge of the existing processes involved. We can promote workplace innovation by getting the employees to participate on projects, supporting and inspiring them to think outside the box and experiment and allowing them to transform.
  • Give your employees all the room they need: Innovation is also developed by using visual aids and techniques, holding periodic meetings and healthy debates, encouraging questioning, researching different industries for copying matching ideas and allowing employees to think out loud and sleep on fresh ideas. Before a meeting, the participants could be asked to submit ideas in anonymity; where a vote would be taken, again in anonymity. After a discussion of the pros and cons of the best ideas voted in by the participants, some tactical as well as strategic ideas could be taken up for immediate implementation. Winning ideas may be rewarded including a special award for the best idea of the year.
  • Give innovation a try and be quick at it: Create a free atmosphere where every encouragement is provided for generation of new ideas with no restraints. Include everyone and not a selected few. Innovation requires continuous support and encouragement for all.
  • Leaders should refrain from ridiculing any new ideas proposed by employees, however inappropriate they may appear to be. Never discard them wholesale; but store them in an “inventory of ideas” for possible reconsideration at a different time and possibly for a different process, product or purpose. If people are allowed to become cautious through the management’s outright rejection of their ideas, that could be a stumbling block for further innovations to flow freely.
  • If employees are too cautious and unwilling to come up with innovative ideas openly for fear of being ridiculed, have a system in place for employees to drop their ideas in anonymity into an “improvement suggestions” box or by filling a form via the organization’s website. In either case, they should be asked to use a secret password for subsequent identification, reward and recognition in case a proposal is accepted as an innovation for implementation.
  • Innovations should always be rewarded by due recognition and publicity within the organization. All innovations may be recorded and held decorated in a “Hall of Fame”. Rewards need not be substantial. Monetary rewards could cause conflicts and frustration among innovators due to difficulties in assessing the extent of cash reward for a given innovation. Purpose of reward should be to motivate employees to come up with more innovative ideas. Recognition by the management and fellow workers would work wonders for their ego and morale.
  • Even if an idea is not accepted for implementation, show respect and gratitude to the employee concerned; and discuss with him or her how the idea may be modified or improved upon.
  • Studies indicate that around 80% of innovations happen unintentionally and through mistakes. In the bestseller “Built to Last” the co-authors Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras discuss some accidents that paved the way for major innovations as not being mere ordinary accidents, but  “purposeful accidents” set in motion by the tremendous encouragement given by those visionary companies for experimentation, opportunism and trial and error methods as opposed to immaculate strategic planning.
  • Some examples of such accidental innovations discussed include Johnson & Johnson’s move into Consumer Products with the discovery of “Johnson’s Toilet and Baby Powder” and “Band-Aid”; the opportunistic step taken by Marriot into Airport Services from providing catering services in airports and inside airplanes, unintended entry of American Express into Financial and Travel Services and then on to Tourism and Travel with the introduction of their Travelers Check, how the simple designing of a small computer for adding power to its instrument product line led HP into entering the computer business without any prior planning. 3M had initially badly failed in its mining business before stumbling on to a series of very successful innovations like now famous small household items like Post-it notes, Masking and Scotch tape etc. The authors go on to claim that these innovations were neither aberrations, nor due to random luck factors, but certainly due to “evolutionary progress” (unplanned progress) triggered by something bigger at work from within.
  • Accept that mistakes will occur: Highly acclaimed “innovations” often fail subsequently due to various reasons. Every failure affords an opportunity to learn new lessons for future guidance. Ironically, failures and innovations very often go together. Failures give birth to new ideas that then sometimes emerge far stronger than the original failed innovation. You have to risk failure if you need to innovate so as to succeed consequentially. Take the story of Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian GP F1 driver and 3 times world champion prior to his accidental death in 1994. In a related documentary, a F1 expert answering a question as to what made Senna such an outstanding driver, said that Senna knew no fears to commit mistakes and that he collected so many mistakes in the early years of his career itself from which he learnt a lot to keep far ahead of all other drivers.
  • Take small steps: Innovations should be introduced in stages wherever possible for easy identification of its most critical phases. This makes it easier to take appropriate controlled measures, and preventive or remedial action. The alternative to “repairing” an innovation is its abandonment in entirety as a complete failure.
  • Criticism of an intended innovation by workers could pose problems for its smooth implementation. Leaders may probe 5 times (technique developed by Sakichi Tayoda) before presenting a change; and then clearly define the problem areas observed. Offering a range of probable solutions simultaneously would stop empty criticisms of the intended innovation and make the employees concentrate on evaluating the possible solutions instead.
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