DocuStar’s MarketHUB+ marketing resource management system is a finalist for this year’s Innovation Awards to be announced this week! In the spirit of that designation, below are some guidelines for building a culture of Innovation within your company.
In an era of rapid change and evolving technology, companies that provide the culture, resources and willingness to innovate are better poised for long-term success. But in order to build a culture of innovation, businesses need to think about what innovation means to them. Too often, we hinder our ability to innovate by only thinking of innovation in grandiose terms – “What’s the next greatest product ever invented,” – and overlook smaller, more practical ways to stay ahead of the curve.
In order to start building a culture of innovation, businesses must first understand there are three areas where small innovations and a focus on creativity can have a big impact:
Processes: How can you improve how things get done within the company?
Business strategies: How will you present your business and its offerings to your audience from a sales, marketing, public relations and branding perspective?
Leverage your employees
If there’s one thing the Internet has taught us, it’s that crowdsourcing, the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, is a powerful tool. While not exactly the same concept, inviting your employees to contribute regularly to the cause of innovation can have powerful results.
You can work with employees in two ways. The first is through directives. Basically, the problem or area for improvement has been identified and the company tasks someone(s) with finding an answer or solution. The second is through independent discovery. In this method, the company doesn’t know what it doesn’t know, and it’s the employees’ mission to seek out or generate new ideas that don’t necessarily solve an apparent problem. For example, people 15 years ago didn’t know they needed text messaging on their cell phones. They thought the ability to make a phone call from anywhere was the only method of communication they needed. How foolish and primitive! Text messaging didn’t really solve an old problem, but it did create a new need.
Let creativity flourish
Once your innovators have their marching orders, where do the ideas themselves come from? According to Nadia Goodman at entrepreneur.com, creative ideas come either from the epiphany of an “Aha!” moment or through a more logical, group brainstorming approach. The “Aha!” moment, she says, usually occurs in the unfiltered freedom of a one-on-one brainstorming session between you and your brain (labeled as bottom-up creativity) and generally spawns more dramatic innovation. The more measured, collaborative approach (top-down creativity) is best when trying to get at the heart of an issue through a more structured process.
No matter which approach you take in leveraging employees or which creative thought process they utilize, the key to success (as it is in many new internal initiatives) will be buy-in and support at managerial and executive levels. In many cases, innovation doesn’t happen when people are playing by the traditional rules. Managers have to hire creative thinkers and let them be who they are. In other words, don’t make them conform to a stuffy corporate culture and set aside traditional notions of what an employee should be and do. Letting someone play around with the latest social media add-on may not be a “smart” use of an employee’s time in the traditional sense, but if innovation is your goal, then you need to let them explore what’s out there. Equally as important, job titles and descriptions shouldn’t inhibit an employee’s ability to contribute across different parts of the organization. After all, a good idea is a good idea.
By leveraging employees and providing them with the internal support they need to thrive, you can lay the foundation for a culture of innovation within your company. Allowing contributions from across the organization can help improve current products, develop new products, improve internal processes and generate creative ways to approach sales and marketing strategies.