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How to Build a Culture of Innovation

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Creating a culture of innovation does more than help your company identify and leverage new opportunities. It also can create an environment that encourages employees to break boundaries and try new things. When workers are inspired to pursue innovation, they’ll feel a greater sense of ownership in the company. They’ll want to help your business thrive.

Leaders should be committed to innovation, but if you’re not encouraging innovation among employees too, you’re missing an essential component. According to Forbes, most innovation comes from workers, not from leaders. The leader who fosters a culture of innovation and makes it a priority for the company sets the stage for a creative, engaged workforce.

We’re living in a time when only 15 percent of workers say they’re engaged in their jobs. So, being able to provide a culture of innovation is an important tool for employee retention and for job satisfaction and productivity. Gallup reports that companies with engaged workers outperform their disengaged peers by an astounding 147 percent. What’s more, according to HRDive, is that a great culture is more important to most workers than compensation.

But what does it take to create and maintain a culture of innovation? Knowing that it needs to be done is one thing. Knowing what it takes to make it happen is another. Here’s a look at four ways you can begin to build a culture of innovation in your company.

Encourage a Work/Life Balance

Work/life balance has become a significant driver both in employee retention and in innovation. Employees with a good work/life balance are more likely to stay at their jobs than those who lack that balance.

Encouraging a work/life balance can mean shortening work hours, allowing people to work remotely or offering benefits such as access to childcare. The harder employees work or the less appreciated they feel, the more likely they are to burn out — or leave. When you actively encourage a better work/life balance, employees are more productive and you’re more likely to attract top talent.

Give Employee Ideas a Chance

If employees know you’re really listening to and hearing what they’re saying, they’re more likely to speak up. Creating a safe space for innovation means listening to all types of ideas and encouraging everyone to think outside the box — or inside. Consider creating an idea box so everyone can submit and contribute ideas on paper without fear of rejection. Then, reward the helpful ideas and allow the employee to work on projects he or she proposed.

Just as important as listening to ideas is avoiding blaming or finger-pointing when ideas don’t work out. Innovation and disappointment are two sides of the same coin, and some mishaps are almost required in order to innovate. When workers know they have room to make mistakes, they’re more likely to thrive.

Provide Ways to Collaborate

Innovation rarely exists in a vacuum. When workers brainstorm, collaborate and provide input together, ideas can take flight and evolve quickly. According to a study by PwC, collaboration plays a critical role in innovation. It helps build consensus, increases levels of motivation and participation and helps pull teams together. The study determined that collaboration “provides a fertile ground for experimentation, resulting in more innovative results.”

Creating spaces for collaboration and allowing time for teams to brainstorm and collaborate can help open the door. These can even lead to greater innovation throughout the entire company. Encourage team members and managers to work together in ways that is most satisfying and productive for them. According to Entrepreneur magazine, when teams feel more cohesive they also become more successful.

If you feel you need to help bring your team closer together, implement team-building activities. These run the gamut, and what’s effective for one team may not work well for another. Leadership consultant Rosalind Cardinal suggests that, when choosing a teambuilding activity, you look at what you want to achieve. Then, choose an exercise that supports that objective.

Remove Obstacles

What do your employees need to do their jobs better? Finding out what obstacles and frustrations they face — and eliminating those — is an effective way to establish commitment to innovation. Managers can create an open-door policy in which employees can share their ideas, provide input and know their feedback is heard and valued.

The importance of creating a culture of innovation shows in the ways it affects a company’s longevity and bottom line. Innovative companies have an edge in penetrating new markets and have a smoother time developing original concepts. As you build your culture of innovation, you’ll benefit not just from an increased advantage in the market. You’ll also enjoy an environment where employees thrive and feel reliably motivated to push your company to future success.

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