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Mar 12, 2014

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3 Simple Strategies to Foster Innovation at Your Company

Fostering a culture of innovation is critical to the success of a company. These strategies will help you achieve it.

Provide Lots of Free Time to Think.

  Different studies such as the one conducted by Accenture show that employees got an entrepreneurial drive. However, nearly 40% of employees say they are too busy with their day to day tasks, to pursue innovative ideas. In this line of thought, the only time employees got to be creative is on their free time.

  If you think about it, most people state getting their best ideas in the shower, at the John, in the car, at the gym, etc. but never in the office. So it seems that the employees not only lack time to be creative, but also an environment to be creative. An office, a cubicle, etc. can be very restrictive spaces to think. Try letting your employees allocate 10-20% of their time to be creative, and work on their own projects and ideas. Do not expect or force your employees to sacrifice their personal time (The one they got to rest, and to share with family and friends) on you. Instead, let them take 3 to 5 days a year, additionally to holidays, to think without the pressures of the office. Given that allows employees to concentrate on a problem, idea or project in an environment that they can control, with no one to interrupt or tell them what to do. This also is a great way to engage your workforce because employees will understand that their ideas are important for the company, there fore they are valued at the organization. Otherwise, why would a company "sacrifice time" they are paying for, for an employee to think about new ideas and business opportunities?

Encourage Risk-Taking.

  Given the changes in the world economy, every day, there are more risk averse companies and employees. However, risk-taking is an essential part of innovation, and key to the survival and success of a company. Companies can help employees to be less risk-averse by using two approaches, the personal and / or the professional.

  The first approach involves helping the employee to take more risks in their daily lives. For example, BrightHouse is an Atlanta-based innovation consulting firm. Each 4th of March they host an event during which each employee is encouraged to do something that he or she has never tried. What I like about it, is that new experiences make us grow as human beings and stimulate our creativity, while allowing us to connect with more people.

  The second approach, the professional, seeks to create spaces where employees are rewarded for taking risk and trying to do things different. Some companies have year-end awards to those who failed with ambitious ideas. Not with the purpose of pointing out who failed but to highlight, and reward, and learn from those who took the risk. Likewise, other companies create internal competitions for new ideas, and reward the best. Therefore, employees always try to book some of their time to think about fresh ideas, and projects for these competitions. As it is not only a way to take credit for an idea in public, if it wins, but also a great strategy to increase their visibility in the organization.

Embrace Diversity.

  Diversity is the key to Competitiveness. It has a high impact on Both the capacity of innovation and adaptation of any company. Diversity in the workforce spices up the creativity of a team. With so many distinctive and diverse minds coming together, many more thoughts and solutions will arise as every individual brings in their way of thinking, operating, solving problems, and taking decisions.

  Use the new projects to connect people of different profiles. Hosting contests at the company, as the ones described in the previous strategy, are ideal for employees to share with other colleagues in distinct departments. This not only gives employees a better understanding of how the company works, but also each member of the team gets feedback from outsiders of their department, and those fresh views on the problems of the company, and possible solutions. Likewise, you can have a policy for projects such as new project, new team. Therefore, each project has a fresh air. It helps each team member to start fresh, and to be afraid to share their ideas, experiences. Moreover, it teaches employees to be adapt to changes, to listen others and to express themselves. Furthermore, team members are more receptive, because these projects are in great learning opportunities, and they got the chance and freedom to work their own way.