It's not a coincidence that companies like Tesla and Apple are so innovative. They would be the first to tell you that it's not because they have access to hidden talent, it's because they've conscientiously designed cultures that inspire creativity and provoke revolution.
So, how do you shape an innovative culture? It takes more than adding the word "Innovative" to your company's list of core values. It requires some engineering and an atmosphere that provides the right conditions. Below are six ways that organizations can create an ecosystem of innovation.
1. Provide psychological safety
Before you tackle the tangibles, you must first address your employees' mindsets. The worst thing that companies can do is hire brilliant people and then tell them what to do. Instead, we should hire them, train them, and then get out of their way. We should establish, up front, that new ideas and opinions are valued. The old saying, "if it ain't broke don't fix it" is a quick way to create robotic employees that can't think outside the box.
Instead, create a "lab-like" environment where employees are encouraged to experiment and test boundaries. More importantly, an environment where they can fail safely.
2. Deconstruct silos
Compartmentalizing your teams is one of the fastest ways to bury the innovative spirit. Instead, create an environment of collaboration. Encourage your employees to learn cross-departmentally and leverage internal expertise.
There are few things more powerful than a group of diverse people working altruistically towards a common goal.
3. Invest in new technology
It's discouraging to see your organization fall behind-the-times with technology. By automating, outsourcing when necessary, and investing in new solutions, you can create margin for innovation elsewhere.
We can't expect our employees to come up with new and improved solutions using old tools. It is even worse when they are forced to spend the majority of their time on monotonous tasks.
Freeing up our employees' time will give them the room to think creatively and experiment.
4. Define and communicate your "why"
Organizations have to connect what they do with why they do it. A disconnect in this area could leave employees feeling unmotivated, uninspired and unable to buy into the big picture. Try coming up with new ideas under these kinds of circumstances.
Per Simon Sinek, "People who believe what you believe put their blood, sweat, and tears into their work."
5. Trim decision trees
This speaks to some companies' excessive formalities and unnecessary protocols. The goal should be to simplify processes and connect those with viable ideas directly to decision makers.
6. Invest in the future
By future I mean people. Some of your company's best ideas could be sitting dormant within your employees. By investing in the development of your people, you unlock their potential and give them the capability to make future ideas happen.
Your competitors can invest in the same technology and they can design similar products. They can't, however, duplicate your people. Thus, your employees are your only true source of sustainable competitive advantage. Are you investing appropriately?
Much like nature--humans are a product of their environment. For example, Death Valley, synonymous with the typical stereotypes of desserts, will occasionally see rain. When it does, millions of wildflowers grow in what's called "the super-bloom". No one would think that just below the surface resides an abundance of beauty and life just waiting for the right conditions. Create an "innovation-friendly" environment and new ideas will sprout up like wildflowers.