5 Ways to Foster a More Innovative Work Culture

January 4th, 2016

innovativecompany

With the arrival of a new year, many of us are reflecting on what we’ve accomplished over the past 365 days, both personally and professionally. What went right? What went wrong? How can we improve for next time? Chances are, most successful (and not-so-successful) companies have probably learned some lessons over the past year, too, and are looking to take their innovation efforts up a notch in 2016. And we’ve seen firsthand that the way to get ahead in innovation is to start thinking more like a startup. Companies need to be fast, iterative and externally focused–traits that aren’t exactly standard for most large corporations. But even for “traditional” companies, it’s possible to adopt a more entrepreneurial mindset to spark better innovation processes without completely overhauling the workplace. Here are five tips to help any (yes, any) company foster a more innovative culture. Happy innovating in 2016!

Shift the Mindset
Many companies have mindsets in place that hold them back; they might spend too much time on the wrong ideas, quit too early when faced with early barriers–or, worse, fail to act on new initiatives altogether. By identifying which thinking patterns are holding up the innovation process, organizations can tackle them to clear the path to more efficient innovation. Here are some better mindsets to adopt in the new year.

Recognize Perception Gaps
Studies have shown that the majority of top leaders say that innovation is either an important priority or an absolute imperative for their company. However, sometimes employees’ perceptions of innovation can cause barriers that prevent them from contributing the great ideas that companies need for growth. It’s important to open clear lines of communication with the entire team to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to what innovation looks like in action. Break down communication barriers and perception gaps before they happen with these ideas.

Drive Employee Engagement
After recognizing any possible perception gaps and breaking down existing barriers to innovation, it’s time for companies to drive employees to act. Everyone on the team has a unique perspective to offer, and the more diverse the idea pool is, the bigger the ideas will be. Make sure the whole team is participating to maximize results; here’s a great way to start the process.

Break Down Silos
One of the biggest factors that stifles innovation is the formation of silos–when companies break off departments into individual pods, making it difficult for different company areas to interact. While silos can be incredibly functional, they also tend to impede external focus and break down interdepartmental connection. Remember what we said about diversity of ideas being a good thing? Breaking down the dividers between departments allows different perspectives and points of view to inter-mingle, which can result in stronger, more diverse and more well thought-out ideas. But companies that are currently “siloed” don’t necessarily have to restructure their organizations entirely; start with these two steps to create a more connected environment.

Create a Community of Collisions
While breaking down silos is a good first step, the next move is to build an environment that is conducive to as many “collisions” as possible for stronger innovation. As illustrated in the silo example, most truly great innovation comes from outside categories. By allowing different departments to interact in an organic way, companies can help sow the seeds for stronger, more game-changing ideas. Here’s how to start colliding for better innovation.

The Garage Group helps corporates innovate and grow by applying mindsets, approaches and tools leveraged by successful startups: more agile, iterative approaches to strategy, product and marketing innovation, initiative development and capability building.

Photo licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 via Flickr user: AIGA/NY

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