It is no news that innovation is one of the most sought-after traits in any team. We all love hearing stories on how successful companies managed to create breakthrough products, changing the market and even the way we live. In practice, however, it is sometimes difficult to know where to start and how to encourage team members to innovate. Here we will look at some ideas that can set you on the right path.
- Allocate time for innovative thinking.
Many great companies have implemented the ITO (Innovation Time Off) in order to give their employees some exclusive time to work on new ideas. While this sounds great, the truth is that the reality of daily work often means that there is very little time left to dedicate to new projects, as employees feel that any time used for innovation is time they could be using not to fall behind on their current projects.
One great way to change this is to establish beforehand a stretch of time that will be used to think of new ideas and assign certain employees (think of your most creative staff) to dedicate exclusively to that. Try to find a physical space that allows them to focus on their task, without the distractions of their daily work. It is not easy, but it is worth the effort.
- Communicate clearly.
If innovation is important for you and your company, make sure your staff understands that. Say it often and say it clearly. Also, adjust your policies so that words turn into action. Consider offering training on creative thinking, point at examples worth looking at, and be open to suggestions.
- Consider using the lean startup approach to deal with innovation.
This is a strategy that has been used by startups for a while now, and consists, basically, on “thinking less and doing more”, starting with small prototypes of the innovative products to test their feasibility, and make the necessary adjustments from there. If the results are positive, then the team can move forward with the project.
If, on the other hand, the project does not seem viable, the team can “pivot” it, and look for the necessary adjustments: does it have to narrow the scope? would it be better if it had a broader approach? Is the target audience not the right one? It is important not to get discouraged during this stage, keeping in mind that this way of working usually requires a few changes along the way.
- Try nearshoring innovation.
Sometimes it can be a good idea to bring professionals from other places with their unique ideas and perspective. Some companies, such as Virtualmind, integrate their staff with the teams already working in-house, resulting in a blend of knowledge and experience that can foster innovation. For North American companies, one of the best regions to look at when it comes to nearshoring is Latin America. Argentina, Brazil, México, among others, are the nest of great software development firms and creative startups.
There are several areas in which a company can innovate, beginning with their products or services, but also in internal communications, work methodologies, company culture, and many more. The key seems to be to encourage innovation actively, not just “expecting it to happen”. Devoting time and resources to this aim will certainly pay off rather sooner than later.