In a recent survey, Accenture found that 69 percent of entrepreneurs believe the United States will lose its competitive edge over foreign companies unless employers encourage workers to innovate. Here are six ways to promote, support, and benefit from the natural creative juices of your employees:
Flatten the Org Chart
When employees feel empowered to create and control their environments, their creative energy is freed. Instead of a company built on many levels of middle management, aim for just a few barriers between executives and staff, and small, self-managed teams. Many successful, flat companies hold weekly town hall meetings where every employee’s ideas are encouraged to be voiced—regardless of seniority or age.
Actually Support New Ideas
Only 20 percent of the Accenture survey respondents say that their organizations offer sufficient support to develop ideas, and 27 percent actually avoid pursuing innovation at work because they fear negative consequences. Though not every single brainstorm can be executed, you can create and promote a system where new ideas are shared and vetted with the team, and put them into development quickly—capitalizing on the enthusiasm that generated those winning ideas in the first place.
Acknowledge that the creative process involves trial, error, risk, and failure. Recognize idea generation—not just the ideas that are successful. Take a note from Grey, the award-winning advertising agency that gifts a “Heroic Failure Award” to employees who take big, edgy risks that don’t exactly pan out, but provide priceless learning opportunities.
There’s a reason that startup incubators and accelerators are a wildly popular concept in the startup world. Sharing ideas and best practices between different people and organizations facilitate more creativity, quicker growth, and greater chances of success.
Researchers at the University of Western Sydney found that professional dancers were more creative when working in teams. You can facilitate teamwork and communication by promoting technology that allows employees to share ideas easily. Google Drive for document sharing, Google Hangouts for video conferencing, and Trello for project management are all great, free, and easy-to-use technologies that promote collaboration.
Encourage Passions Outside the Office
Your business may not be conducive to graffiting the office walls or installing a ping-pong table in the break room, but find ways to support your workers’ interests—ones that tap their innate human passion. Examples include giving paid time off to volunteer, or paying for coursework in areas that don’t directly correlate with job duties. You could also create an office show-and-tell, where a yoga enthusiast guides the office in a yoga session, or the office gardener brings in a sampling of the summer’s crop.
Cross-Pollinate Departments, Roles and Industries
Great ideas can come from anywhere. Encourage employees from different departments to share ideas by collaborating on projects, or implement a job swap where workers spend a week with another team. Invite speakers from different industries to share case studies that may not necessarily relate to your organization, and encourage employees to join trade associations, as well as attend events and conferences.