Does your organization task you with promoting innovation? Are you required to ensure your employees are creative and innovative? Wondering how to choose who should be the focus of innovation training? how do you actually go about it to produce the best results? Basically – are you tasked with creating organizational processes and mechanisms to ensure that employee creativity is actually channeled into organizational impact?
Let’s begin by dispersing two myths:
Innovation is not new
Innovation has become a buzzword in recent years because of the different new media channels, the startup world, famous exits combined with our basic human need for framing and labeling. However, organizations have always attempted innovation – encouraged employees’ creativity and tried to get them to be proactive about it.
Creativity isn’t innovation
Creativity is creating new ideas, innovation is making it happen. Both creativity and the ability to carry it out in the organization are needed for innovation to happen.
Who should do it? All hands on deck or a special elite unit?
There are several different approaches regarding who in the organization should be involved with innovation. I will describe two main approaches which represent the main thinking on both edges of the spectrum.
The first approach emphasizes training all (or almost all) the employees. Fostering cross organizational creativity and creating an innovation culture in all parts of the company. This approach is very common with HR and places the human factor in the center of the process. This approach is based on the belief that all employees can contribute, and that because you can never know which employee will have the “million dollar idea”, it is best to invest in all the employees and “hope for the best”. This approach stems from trust in the capabilities of each employee in any role to be creative and to contribute. This approach tends to create a better, more interesting workplace. It also gives room for many “small” improvement ideas to add up to constant improvement and helps bring on significant change over time.
The other approach emphasizes creating an Innovation elite team – a group of people chosen and trained to lead innovation in the organization. This approach is based on the idea that innovation is a means to growing profit and that the most cost effective way to bring in profit is to create and to nurture a select interdepartmental team that will specialize in developing new products and services that will lead the organization into the future. Some organizations develop more than one team – ie. – strategic, product and technology innovation teams – provided that each have clear business oriented goals. This approach is based on relying that finding and utilizing these key people is enough to recognize innovation venues and to steer the company to the best growth channels. The two main advantages of such teams are experience and knowledge that team members gain in the innovation field, as well as the ability to implement ideas (ideas are more likely to be implemented by a team of key players rather than when everyone is involved).
Which approach does your organization favor? Who makes the decisions regarding innovation? It is important to discuss the options and make an informed decision.
But do we actually have to choose between fostering all organizational innovation and setting up a system of elite innovation teams? Not necessarily! It is possible to do both by using acceleration methods from the startup world to bridge the gap between an idea and an implemented project. In order to do so, we recommend setting up an innovation committee which includes stakeholders and decision makers in the organization.
Asking employees to initiate innovation utilizes the accumulated ideas, knowledge and experience according to crowdsourcing principals. In order to harness those assets and to conduct a productive dialogue with the employees it is important to define what exactly is expected of them. It is possible to do so by outlining specific challenges and creating a safe space to raise and manage ideas and innovation. In addition, in order to motivate employees to continually raise creative ideas it is important to create a rewards system. Those rewards differ from organization to organization but usually include: Financial reward; Accolades and prestige; recognition.
Managing innovation and promoting creativity in an organization is complex because of (amongst other things) deciding their purpose and defining goals. Selecting an approach: include all the employees, an elite unite or to use a combination of the two approaches, Choosing the right tools and methods to train the relevant employees, and Creating processes that constantly provide stimulation and reward.
Only a thoughtful combination of these will provide a constant stream of creative ideas and scalable execution process that can provide substantial benefits for the organization.