3 Ways to Cultivate InnovationBy Maryalene LaPonsie | Posted January 09, 2013
As customer expectations and technology evolve, so too must your business. To remain competitive, creating a business culture that fosters innovation can be imperative.
While you can't force creativity, you can apply a few easy changes in your workplace that shift your company culture. Here are three ways to go from responding reactively to market changes to anticipating and addressing them.
3 Small Business Tips to Foster Innovation
1. Hire diverse talent
The first step toward creating an innovative culture is to have the right employees in the fold. In addition to workers who are self-motivated and trustworthy, consider striving for a workforce that embraces diversity.
Diversity is often framed in terms of race and gender, but cultivating a diverse workplace is about so much more than that. Seek out employees with different personalities and work backgrounds. If all your employees view your business through the same lens, you might remain stuck with the status quo.
Seek out workers who bring a new perspective to your business, market conditions and target audience.
2. Build breathing room into the work day
Once you have a group of trusted and diverse employees, give them time to work creatively. Google famously allows its employees time to work on personal initiatives that may not be tied directly to their assigned duties.
Depending on how you structure your business, look for ways to build breathing room into the day or week to let your employees explore new ideas. Being flexible is critical to making this work. If you have an employee who does her best thinking at the local park or while taking a walk -- give her an hour to go hash out her thoughts.
Then, create a way to facilitate the sharing of ideas and collaboration between employees. It could be a corkboard with note cards in the break room or a Google doc that the whole office can access.
3. Have a high tolerance for mistakes
As a business owner, you don't want to waste time and money on initiatives that are going nowhere. However, failure is part of innovation. The Smithsonian notes Thomas Edison had to test more than 1,600 materials before he found the right filament for his electric bulb.
Your workers should be comfortable knowing you don't expect every idea to be a home run. If they fear your wrath when a project doesn't pan out, chances are they won't risk exploring new ideas.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't be smart about new ideas. Look for ways to test initiatives and measure preliminary results before pouring energy into pursuing them. But keep communication open with your employees, and let them know that you appreciate their efforts, even when they fail.
Creating a company culture that embraces innovation doesn't have to be hard. It simply requires shifting your expectations and empowering your employees to explore new ideas with your full support.
Maryalene LaPonsie has been writing professionally for more than a decade on topics including education, insurance and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from Western Michigan University.
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