Traditionally, the business world is about a pricing war and whoever offers the lower price will get the sale. However, with advancing technology and evolving consumer behaviour, sale closing has become a combo of innovation, strategy, engagement and customer experience. It is no longer about the lowest price and consumers are willing to pay for innovation.
Disruption is the catalyst to innovation and the pandemic is solid proof of that. Many companies implement the work from home model or a hybrid of working from home and reporting to the office on certain days a week. Brick and mortar stores who initially did not have an online presence have also gone online.
According to a study by UN Trade and development experts UNCTAD, global ecommerce sales has grown to $26.7 trillion in 2020. In a nutshell, innovation is the act or process of generating new ideas, devices and methods or tweaking existing products, services, business models, and concepts in new ways.
Being open to innovation is critically important to meet the constantly changing demands of the market in order to stay agile and thrive in the current, volatile economy which has been impacted greatly by the pandemic.
So how do businesses foster innovation? Here are 6 powerful tips to creating a culture of innovation:
1. Start from top-down
Innovation starts from top-down management. The CEOs need to lead by example – being passionate about their work, creating a clear vision and being self driven, possesses a positive mindset and attitude, be forward thinking and stay agile at all times.
Leaders need to be bold aka think big, being visionaries with foresight so they can lead the path to innovation. Their role is crucial to ensuring the culture of innovation and it is the secret ingredient of successful and high-performing business leaders.
2. Create a culture of innovation
People perform best when they are inspired and encouraged to think outside the box and push their boundaries without fear of being reprimanded when mistakes occur. Employees need to feel empowered that they can own their innovative thinking and pursue the ideas they are passionate about. The key to fostering innovation is by creating an open environment where employees are free to be creative. That’s when the magic happens!
A single, great and useful idea often comes after many failed attempts and when the entire company is involved in the brainstorming session, the process of refining happens quicker exponentially compared to when only key people are involved. The collaborative environment is a natural medium for the creative flow of ideas and suggestions.
3. Build effective teams
It is not just about high-performing individuals, it is about optimising the individual talents and complementing the team dynamics overall with the individual strengths. Certain key requirements need to be put in place.
They include effective structure, clarity of objectives and timelines, purpose and meaning in the work the team does, trust and reliance between team members and believing in the vision as well as the long term results of the team’s efforts. An open and collaborative space needs to be created where honest communication can prevail without fear of being judged or criticised.
4. Flat management structure
You might be surprised that for innovative companies, the management structure tends to be flat in order to create open communication and foster confidence.
However, if a flat structure is not suitable for your company culture, the alternative is to have an “Innovation Ambassador”, who can bring the management’s attention to great ideas. Whichever option is used, the core objective is to create authentic steps for innovation to take place in reality.
5. Incentivise failure
One of the most powerful tools for boosting employee creativity and innovation is recognition. This is a simple but often overlooked method. It is human nature to want to be recognised and be rewarded for one’s ideas and initiatives. A timeless practice that can have incredible payoff for the company.
A common reason why employees do not express their ideas often enough is because they fear being put down or penalised when they fail. Hence the mentality of “status quo” exists because they do not wish to rock the boat when they can be in their comfort zone.
Failure is inevitable because nothing works the first time. So instead of penalising failure, incentivise it and this move would and in most cases, unexpectedly bring about performance and results beyond expectations.
6. Take ownership of client problems
Innovative companies usually encourage employees to take ownership of problems presented by clients. Client problems are often seen as a headache which should be left in the hands of the customer service personnel.
But in actual fact, every client problem creates a great opportunity for the company to exhibit real customer service, taking the time to highlight huge improvements in the product or service design and delivery. Lessons learnt can be shared with all the employees to maximise the learning value and equip them with the right solutions to handle similar problems in the future.
In summary, innovation does not happen overnight. There might be challenges in the beginning when you are trying to build and foster the culture of innovation. It would take consistency, accountability, open and authentic communication but the effort will definitely be worth it!