Organisations are increasingly facing disruptions. One of the reasons being, someone has found a better way to serve a target audience. So how do you promote innovation at work? How do organisations encourage innovation and creativity in the workplace? Here are 5 tips for encouraging innovation in the workplace:
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1. Know your customer
An innovation journey starts with a deep understanding of your customer.
An understanding of your customer’s motivations, behaviours, goals and challenges in context of service/s you provide them is critical. This foundational understanding provides insights into channels that your customers prefer and ways in which they choose to engage with your organisation. It is vital to understand how your customers interact with your organisation across both digital and physical channels.
A few examples of customer research techniques include customer interviews, online surveys, analytics from existing digital marketing channels etc. The end outcome being, a deep understanding of your customer’s motivations, behaviours, goals and challenges in context of service/s you provide them.
The insights from your customer research program will go a long way towards creating a defining set of principles, that will shape the innovation roadmap for your organisation. The implementation of opportunities that have been identified from your customer research will set your organisation on a path to creating and delivering a transformational customer experience. Use an iterative approach to implement and test opportunities you have identified. This will help your organisation learn what resonates with the customer and drive incremental enhancements to your customer experience. These incremental wins will go a long way in creating momentum for your organisation’s innovation journey.
2. Create an always-on innovation organisation
Fundamental to building innovation processes and capabilities within an organisation is a balance between innovation and efficiency. Organisations that focus on efficiency tend to achieve perfection. However, an excessive focus on efficiency kills innovation.
3. Increase collaboration between business functions
During the pandemic, most business function teams (e.g. marketing or sales or finance) were working from home and generally collaborated within their own teams. This creates silos and stifles innovation. The chance meetings between business functions where employees share ideas was not happening anymore.
Create a cross functional team for innovation or growth projects. Include team members from marketing, sales, legal and finance. Create a company culture that promotes intra-team conversations as opposed to just conversations within business function teams.
This creates an open communication channel between teams. This speeds up decision making and enhances the ability of an organisation to execute on bold innovative ideas. Thus laying the foundation for either improving or creating new products and services.
4. Inculcate a culture where bold ambitious ideas are embraced
Inculcate an innovation culture. Inculcate a learning culture that values experimentation, feedback on what worked well and what can be improved. Once the problem has been defined, carve out time for problem solving sessions - brainstorming sessions or brain writing sessions. Try not to discount the first idea that you came up with just because you thought it was imperfect.
Perfection kills innovation. Take a concept or two from multiple ideas prior to deciding a solution that will solve a customer problem. It’s also important that ideas and innovation are not shot down too quickly. Ideas and innovation by definition are rough on the edges when they are first conceived.
Employees are not as motivated to contribute again. This reduces employee engagement. This stalls employee innovation and the organisation maintains status quo. It is important for employees to feel motivated at work. This feeling of motivation encourages employees to participate in innovation projects. This enhances products, services and customer experience.
5. Allocate time and resources for innovation projects
Even the best of innovation projects fail, if you don’t carve out time and a team to work on them. Create a work environment that supports innovation. This will increase time spent by employees on innovation projects.
A example of innovation in the workplace is the transition of brick mortar supermarkets to include online order and delivery. This is also known as click and collect.
Prior to the pandemic, most supermarket chains slowly began experimenting with e-commerce. They got better at e-commerce over time. The e-commerce channel started to gain prominence during the pandemic. They were able to quickly pivot to a click and collect model.
This shows the importance of carving out time and team to work on innovative companies of tomorrow. This will make an organisation relevant and more prepared for delivering ongoing value to customers.
6. Allocate time for re-skilling employees at every level
Customers needs and behaviours change over time. Organisation services and products change over time. Employees and teams also need to re-skill themselves to serve the changing needs of customers. Carve out time for re-skilling team members. Identify what skills are required for delivering the services and products of tomorrow.
This will provide you good ideas for what skills need to be developed within the team. Identify a time frame for completing training related activities. Your team members will be exposed to new ideas during the training process. The exchange of ideas that takes place during and after the training will be reflected in your services and products.
To conclude, innovate around customer demand and needs, changing customer behaviours and pain points. Customer needs and preferences trump competitors moves. Large companies that are focused on competitors, restrict themselves to generating ideas that are centred around competitor moves.
Businesses that collect qualitative and quantitative customer data will find it easy to generate, evaluate and implement innovative solutions. This enables innovative businesses to address customer needs, changing behaviours and pain points.
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