Innovation drives growth. It's a simple concept that any leader, with even the slightest bit of business training, knows to be true. Without strategic transformations, an organisation risks becoming stagnant and falling behind in this increasingly fast-paced corporate environment.
Yet, a global study by O.C. Tanner found that while leaders recognise the importance of innovation, they are not excelling at encouraging it among their employees.
Without strategic transformations, an organisation risks becoming stagnant.
A top-down problem
In a survey of 3,500 professionals from countries such as India and the U.S., the researchers found a considerable disconnect between employees who wanted to be involved in organisational innovation and those who actually were.
Almost nine out of 10 respondents felt adamant that they should be involved in the internal innovation process but only six in 10 reported they actually were.
According to the report, the problem lies in a lack of encouragement or opportunity for non-executive employees. While leaders by and large tended to be very vocal about their support for innovation, many respondents claimed that when it came to supplying the resources their bosses fell flat. Less than 50 per cent of respondents reported having access to the money, support or staff needed to truly execute their ideas – a basic requirement on the hierarchy of employee needs.
— O.C. Tanner (@octanner) January 1, 2016
"We found two important ideas from our research," explains David Sturt, executive vice president at the O.C. Tanner Institute. "First, there is a gap in expectations of who should and who does perform great work, and second, there is a lack of support for employees. This innovation disconnect appears to be a universal problem, at small and large companies and among all age groups."
Flipping the script: How to encourage innovation
Vocalising support for innovation with no real substance to back those claims is a major problem within organisations, as indicated by the study. And this problem has the potential to severely disengage employees in the workplace. The study found that when businesses lack support systems for new ideas, staff members can become cynical and even disillusioned with the company entirely.
Staff members that were once eager to come up with innovative solutions can potentially become unmotivated and unenchanted when there is no support from higher ups. To avoid the problem, there are some clear ways executives can cultivate an environment of genuine innovation in their organisation.
Create a thoughtful company statement around innovation and then back it up.
1. Communicate sincere support
While leaders seem to be vocalising their love of innovation, it is clearly not translating to genuine support. One of the first steps to cultivating innovation lies in showcasing a sincere support for employees and their ideas. According to the study, when leaders actively encouraged their teams to innovate productivity jumped 14 per cent.
This all stems from clear and wide-reaching communication surrounding your policies for innovation. O.C. Tanner suggests creating a thoughtful company statement around innovation and then backing it up with the relevant processes. Make sure your team understands what innovation means to the company and how they can get involved.
2. Embrace collaboration
Innovation, at its core, is about coming up with new and creative solutions to problems. The best way to brainstorm fresh solutions involves collaboration. By encouraging ideas from every level and every department of your organisation you are not only inspiring innovative ideas but allowing for ample opportunity to participate across the board.
Fast Company contributor Faisal Hoque explained that when executives reserve these sessions for top players, the solutions are generally not very diverse. Opening up the discussion can bring new perspectives to the table while translating an authentic culture of innovation.
3. Flatten the structures
When possible, a hierarchical shakeup could be the answer to your innovation needs. Hoque explained that a lot of the hurdles on the path to innovation stem from the processes associated with top-down structures. By flattening out your organisation you can eliminate some of the drawn-out approval procedures and windy communication paths.
This really boils down to empowering your team members to make bold decisions on their own. So, if a complete reorganisation isn't do-able, try to embolden your employees to be more autonomous. This will give them the space to take risks and come up with creative new strategies.
Leaders set the tone for their organisation.
4. Be the change
Leaders set the tone for their organisation. As such, creating a culture of genuine innovation will start at the top. Show your team members that you are willing to think outside the box and they should be to. Forbes contributor Glenn Llopis says that bosses should aim to become change agents.
This involves embracing change as a constant reality and showing your employees what this looks like. By taking bold steps yourself and actively encouraging employees to do the same you will create an environment that is conducive to constant transformation.
Invest in training for the sake of innovation
Innovation is a critical component of any successful business. Leaders must be able, and willing, to not only vocalise support for innovation but provide the systems and resources necessary to allow for employees to participate.
For professionals at every level this is a skill that can be improved upon with some formal training. LMIT offers a variety of business training and management training courses that can help you address innovation head on with a variety of key business competencies. To learn more, check out our courses today!
Published by: LMIT