How to Promote Innovative Thinking in Your Company

Author: Gerard Ferreira 

Innovative Thinking

‘Corporate Innovator’ (CI), a term we use a fair bit, describes a company’s employee who uses innovative thinking to drive growth and change from within. There’s another term for this that has experienced cycles of popularity since the 70s: it’s ‘intrapreneur’ which refers to employees with entrepreneurial mindsets.

While the skills that foster innovation are fundamentally the same for entrepreneurs and corporate innovators, the experience differs – like driving the company’s maxi taxi versus working as the ‘tout’, sitting in the back taking fares.

The risk, for one, is definitely more on the side of the entrepreneur, while the responsibility for innovating is usually looked at as a top-down process. Most successfully-innovating companies, however, know that innovation requires a company-wide effort, with no one person or single group solely responsible. This is why entrepreneurs must focus on ways to promote innovative thinking among their employees.

Here are some ways entrepreneurs can do just that:

Create an environment where employees can thrive. Start by creating an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing ideas. Seems like a ‘no duh’ statement but a lot of Caribbean companies still have managers who refuse to listen to subordinates 🙉. Your staff should feel comfortable sharing ideas even if the ideas themselves aren’t great. One way of doing this is to setup a channel or platform for idea-sharing.

Dedicate time for thinking. Employees need time and space to let their minds roam 🧠 in order to stimulate their creativity. Whether you do this by letting staff spend 15% of their time doodling or experimenting or you structure brainstorming sessions into the work schedule, you’ll be in good company with others who follow similar practices, including 3M, Google and Amazon.

Identify your corporate innovators. While you may not have the resources to be as thorough as those large, well established companies, you can identify your CIs through sessions like ‘pitch competitions’ where employees are given the chance to come up with solutions to problems both related and outside of the company’s scope.

Implement and incentivize 💵 Quick implementation of employee ideas is a reward in itself and lets staff know you are serious about listening to and activating their ideas. Once an idea is chosen for implementation, the employee should be rewarded – but don’t use large rewards, as this can be counter-productive. Think about what your employees value and work that into your reward packets.

Here are some helpful links to continue your reading on the road to promoting innovation:

16 Techniques to encourage workplace innovation – longish but great info. If you only have time to read one, make it this one.

Lessons from the Big Boys – learnings from the largest companies

9 Ways to encourage innovation – short and sweet

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