Entrepreneurs are constantly looking for new ways to innovate and stay fresh. For many business owners, it's important to encourage an innovative culture, in order to remain successful. We asked members of the Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) to share any and all tips on how they might achieve this goal.
1. Rearrange Seats
“Digital marketing is a team sport, so innovation for our team starts with our seating arrangement. Several months ago I implemented an approach centered on everyone building a team environment that is as close in proximity as possible. Think of it as a family eating dinner. Assuming you have the right people in each seat, innovation is a natural occurrence through this process. Everyone on the team understands the goals of the client and, by simply challenging them with the goal of solving a major problem, the natural output is for them to work together at a much higher level, with much better results."
Jake Fagan, EO Nashville
Co-Founder and President, Caddis Interactive
2. Don't Fear Mistakes
"People are taught from an early age that mistakes are bad. We make great efforts to remove the fear of making mistakes in our company. It is a fine balance, as we do not want to encourage reckless behavior, but we want people to reach and work beyond their comfort zones. We even discuss on a weekly basis mistakes that were made by team members. The analysis includes the thinking behind that particular choice, how it went wrong, and what could have been done to either avoid it or produce a different outcome. We have found that these discussions removes people’s fear and we enjoy an adventurous culture that is extremely creative."
Russell Lundstrom, EO Colorado
Founder, Simple Smart Science
3. Bring One Idea Each
"Whenever we have a meeting, we require each attendee to come with ideas for how to improve their work. Each employee provides at least one way in which they’ve made themselves 1% better at doing their job or a technique for enhancing their end result. For instance, after listening to ideas from our employees, our company blog has developed in many positive ways. Instead of stock images, we now invest time into creating original images that make us stand out. We’ve also improved the blog’s overall layout, look and feel thanks to fresh innovation from our team. Going through this process ensures that our processes are constantly becoming more effective and efficient every day."
Vladimir Gendelman, EO Detroit
Founder and CEO, Company Folders, Inc.
4. Determine What to Start, Stop and Keep Doing
"We ask every single one of our team members the one thing they would start, stop, and keep doing if they were the sole owner of the company. We also ask everyone what the number one opportunity to take advantage of is and what threat that needs to be eliminated. The answers to these questions help to highlight any innovative ideas that may have been overlooked by the leadership team, and it also helps the entire team feel smart, valued and important. The entire team feels empowered and aligned with the success of the company by treating the business and the innovations behind it as if it's their own."
Nick Friedman, EO Tampa Bay
Co-Founder and President, College Hunks Hauling Junk
5. Keep it Face-to-Face, Even Remotely
"Because our company has employees all over the United States, and our approach for innovation is 'bottom-up,' fostering innovation is a challenge. We utilize teleconferencing with multiple people involved and webcam for everyone. Face-to-face interaction helps people connect and come up with better, more involved ideas. We also schedule regular meeting with entrepreneurial-minded members of our team and listen to their thoughts and ideas. All new ideas are reviewed weekly by a group of managers and execs, and those that are green-lighted are sent for testing or implementation."
Kirill Bensonoff, EO Boston
Principal Consultant, ComputerSupport.com
6. Devote Time
"One way we encourage innovation and creative thinking is our weekly 'Code Review.' Our developers have an hour specifically set aside to talk about new pieces of functionality that they’ve just learned about or have built themselves to solve a client problem. That hour allows the developers to talk through any issues they’re having with a project, and it always sparks new ideas. Sometimes it’s just a point of sitting down with your team and working to solve challenges — that’s where innovation thrives. We encourage our team to solve all challenges with no fence or confines in mind, and one important piece of that is simply setting aside the time."
Keith Roberts, EO Colorado
Founder and President, Zenman