Innovation is a key part of most companies’ corporate identities or strategies, but it doesn’t happen by itself. So how does one make it happen?
Have you ever heard: “Those who experiment the most, are able to innovate the best”? The reality is that it’s just not that easy to start experimenting or to become more innovative – as an individual or as a company. Unless you’re actively and intentionally creating this culture of experimentation, innovation simply cannot happen.
TomorrowToday Global, a platform which helps leaders to transition to a new way of thinking, being and doing, gives some simple suggestions to start creating a culture where experimentation is truly encouraged and made possible; in turn, leading to innovation not just being a word, but a real attribute that sets you apart from your competitors and which enables you to truly adapt to this constant thing called change.
1. Employees need to be comfortable with failure
First and foremost, employees are never going to be comfortable with failure if their leader isn’t comfortable with it. This means having a leader who is willing to experiment, a leader who is comfortable with making mistakes, and of course, a leader who is confident to share the failures as much (if not more) as he is willing to share the successes.
Having a leader who promotes this culture of experimentation from the top is vital in creating an environment where employees can begin to feel safe enough in order to start experimenting.
2. Failure needs to be celebrated
Here’s how Joanna Lord, former marketing executive and tech advisor for Porch, described how they celebrated failure in their company:
“Every time you break the site, whoever breaks the site the worst gets Mr Sparkles for a week. You put him on your desk and it’s like this badge of honour that you did something so bold that you literally messed up the site badly. And you know what I love? You see my chief executive officer walking around the room and he’s high-fiving the Mr Sparkles owner. And people are like: ‘What did you do? What did you do to get Mr Sparkles?’ But the reality is we’ve made it a positive thing. We’ve made it a badge of honour. You are living out the Porch-y way in being bold. What can you do in your culture to make it fun and acceptable? And almost, you know, become famous for it.”
Once you’ve started to work at creating this culture that makes experimentation (and thus innovation) an option by creating a safer space where failure is a positive thing, the next step is to make sure that experimentation actually becomes something that happens daily and is practised without thinking.
Tip: Start small . . . because there is no doubt that it is going to be scary to start with and that it will take some convincing that failure is actually encouraged – for all parties in the organisation.
8 Simple exercises to get going
• Change roles for 45 minutes . . . Join your receptionist for your lunch break and actively take on that role for 45 minutes. Invite the cleaner into an exco meeting, or if you’re the chief executive officer, then spend an hour finding out how the members of one of your teams like their tea and make it for them one morning.
• Make it compulsory for each member of your team to leave work an hour early one day this week.
• Create a suggestion jar for whacky ideas on how you could improve sales, improve work-life balance, increase customer experience and more. Once the jar is full, well . . . pizzas are on you for Friday lunch. Spend this lunch time as a team reading through the different suggestions. Take one suggestion and experiment with it.
• Have a standing meeting, or meet at a different venue. Have someone else chair the meeting. Have a walking (or running) meeting and get some exercise in while you’re at it! Make your meetings 30 minutes instead of 60 minutes.
• Make it easy for your team to be reading something different, something that they wouldn’t normally dream of reading.
• If you are a manager, stop answering questions. Instead, respond with: “What do you think?” And then wait. After an answer is given ask: “What else?” And then wait. Repeat five to seven more times.
• If you normally send your weekly newsletter out on a Tuesday, try sending it out on a Friday instead. If you advertise on billboards, try advertising on Facebook. If you only send electronic newsletters, maybe try delivering a handwritten note to your top 10 or 20% of clients.
• Spend 20 minutes brainstorming with your team on how you can experiment more!
Things to remember once you’ve started experimenting:
• Give time frames to these experiments.
• Have a plan for the experiments.
• NB: Create a platform or meeting where all members share what they have experimented with for the month, ways the experiment could move the team forward and what the results have been.
• Keep going and remember to keep celebrating the failures!
Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to TomorrowToday Global for the insights shared. For more on the importance of experimenting and other topics on preparing for the future, visit www.tomorrowtodayglobal.com.
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