In this fast-changing world, every company can benefit from more good ideas. Where do you get them? One approach is to hire people specifically tasked with creativity. But some of the world's most innovative companies scoff at this idea.

"A lot of companies have innovation departments, and this is always a sign that something is wrong when you have a VP of innovation or something. You know, put a for-sale sign on the door," Apple CEO Tim Cook has snipped.

Google agrees that innovation is every employee's business. "Making innovation part of your organization isn't about starting up a research & development lab or focusing your efforts on one set of people. In Google's experience, innovation happens when you make it a valued part of the way people think, work, and interact everyday," the search giant declared on its Re:Work blog recently.

How do you make innovation a valued part of everyone's everyday work at your organization? According to a new, free innovation guide Google released along with the post, nurturing your people's creativity comes down to ensuring they have these five essential ingredients of an innovative workplace (in Google's words but with my links):

  1. Shared vision: Make sure everyone knows where the organization is heading.

  2. Autonomy: Allow employees to define their own work as much as possible.

  3. Intrinsic motivation: Hire naturally curious people who like to learn.

  4. Risk-taking: Enable employees to feel psychologically safe to take risks and try new ideas.

  5. Connection & collaboration: Make it easy for employees to find partners and work together.

What does nurturing these qualities in your workplace look like in practice? Google, helpfully, doesn't leave you to figure that out on your own. The company's guide to fostering an innovative workplace includes explainers and tools for managers that can help make sure your company has each of these five fundamentals covered.

For instance, how do you get your people to be less afraid of failure? Google's guide contains a template for holding a "premordem discussion" before you launch a new project.

"Sometimes, before a project even begins, teams come together to talk about all the possible ways a project could fail. This exercise, called a 'premortem,' was popularized by Gary Klein in 2007," explains the guide. "This type of discussion helps to normalize failure by talking about it openly and, importantly, can provide the benefits of learning from failure while avoiding the pain of actually failing."

Other tools include a lengthy template for setting your team's shared vision, including in-depth guidance for the discussion facilitator, and information to encourage peer feedback to build connections between employees.

It should also be noted that this guide is just the latest of many free, useful guides put out by Google via Re:Work. Others include manager training tools, information to help you hire better, and tips for low-cost, high-impact training. Watch the blog, or this column, for updates on whatever Google releases next.  

Published on: Apr 18, 2018