Cultivating an Innovation Mindset
Cultivating an Innovation Mindset — Actively Pursuing Innovation
At this point, most businesses are keenly aware that it is imperative to their survival, in a competitive business world, to actively pursue innovation and cultivating an innovation mindset within their organization. The real challenge becomes how to create a culture of innovation where individuals, and the team as a whole, are motivated and inspired to drive the company forward. Some companies make the mistake of assuming innovation comes from the top-down, and that leadership can simply dictate that innovation is a priority and then expect results.
In truth, cultivating an innovation mindset begins with the individual and happens over time. With each new idea that is encouraged and nurtured, or with each unlikely collaboration that yields positive results, the capacity for innovation grows within the individual and the company organically creates more space for innovation to happen. You cannot grow a culture of innovation without the initial spark from that first innovator who is willing to go out on a limb. If you want to cultivate an innovation mindset, you have to start with yourself and focus on the individual.
Innovation Happens from the Inside-Out
Make no mistake about it: innovation happens from the inside out. As a leader within the company, all you can do is provide individuals with the tools necessary to be successful and allow them to be their best. With that being said, the idea of creating a culture of innovation can still feel abstract and intangible. Individuals are left wondering how they can tap into their own creativity and foster innovation. Ultimately, while innovation comes down to the individual, some of the burden does fall on the organization.
Leadership must look around and examine whether they have created a safe environment where employees feel empowered to innovate. If they feel stifled by a hierarchy, they won’t go beyond the bare minimum of what is listed on their job description for fear of stepping out of bounds. Essentially, employees need permission to innovate. They need to know that not every idea has to be a homerun and that it is okay to strike out — sometimes in the pursuit of something bigger and better. Failure should be an acknowledged and welcomed part of the process. When people are given the freedom to fail, they are more likely to aim for the fences.
The Power of Self-Motivation
Whether you are an athlete, an entrepreneur or an inventor, the most powerful force that propels people towards success is self-motivation. As you probably know firsthand, when you set goals based on your understanding of other people’s expectations, you tend to lose motivation and fall short. External motivation tends to lose steam quickly.
In a company setting, traditional goal-setting might not be enough to motivate individuals for an innovation mindset. Instead, you need to rethink KPIs and your reward system. While offering incentives might provide employees with temporary motivation, it won’t help foster a culture of innovation that has staying power. The best way to go from a one-time incentive to actually changing the way your company operates is to use gamification and ideation software to transform projects. Gamification inherently involves built-in rewards so that employees receive encouragement as they move through the project or innovation process. This positive feedback spurs internal motivation and keeps them pushing forward even when a failed attempt might put them back at square one.
How to Nurture and Grow Your Team
As your company and your team evolves, so will your approach to innovation. Maintaining self-motivation and continuing to get the best out of each individual innovator will require constant evaluation. Even if you are successfully churning out projects, you always want to build in the time to reflect on the results. This will allow employees to go beyond acquiring new skills and actually create wisdom that can be carried forward into future projects. As you work on developing an innovation program, think about whether it allows your innovators to answer the following questions:
- How am I being a leader right now?
- How am I using my genius?
- How am I tapping into my multiple intelligences?
- How am I collaborating right now?
- How am I striving for wisdom?
- How am I creating progress?
When you create an environment where employees are encouraged to ask these questions and free to adapt their behavior according to their answers, then you will begin to reap the rewards of an innovative culture.
Concrete Steps You Can Take to Cultivate an Innovation Mindset
Here are some concrete steps you can take to create a successful culture of innovation that continues to nurture your team and encourages them to ask the important questions and engage in self-reflection.
- Tap into your innovator’s genius and your team’s collective mind by using ideation software. By using a common platform to facilitate innovation challenges and the gamification of problem-solving, you will be able to more effectively engage employees at all levels and tap into wells of creativity among your existing team.
- Aim for about 8 to 10 innovation challenges per year. This will reinforce the fact that innovation is a top priority and help encourage on-going engagement without causing ideation fatigue. A steady stream of projects also encourages employees to keep questioning their own performance and what they are contributing to the company.
- Facilitate check-ins. Whether employees need to take time out of their daily tasks to check-in on an innovation challenge or they need to engage in some meaningful self-reflection, create time and space for these things to occur.
- Show and report collaboration. The more you track collaboration and look at who is working together, the better you will be able to understand where innovation is coming from within your company. You will find that innovation software allows team members from different departments to engage in productive collaborations that wouldn’t have otherwise taken place within the confines of their usual tasks. Use this information to your advantage moving forward.
- Report on successes while also highlighting and promoting wins. When your innovation program is able to successfully develop and implement new ideas, be sure to share and celebrate these occasions. It is an easy way to recognize and reward those involved while also showing others the power of innovation and collaboration and encouraging them to set lofty goals.
- Report bottom line figures and show how each individual is contributing. Again, tracking performance and generating a clear picture of how your efforts to create an innovative culture are paying off; will reinforce the importance of a collective innovation mindset. Understanding how each individual is contributing will also reveal important information about where and how employees operate best. This can help you get the most out of your team for an even bigger ROI.
Not only is a creating a culture of innovation at your company important, it is completely possible, especially if you realize that it is a process. There isn’t a switch you can flip that will change the way your employees think and act, but there are things you can do to help them shift to an innovation mindset and discover self-motivation. It all starts with creating a space where occasional failure is not only an option, but an expectation. From there, work to provide the tools and resources they need to foster a different mindset and tap into their own potential. If you are patient with the process, you will begin to see results and your company will benefit from unique ideas and unexpected collaborations.
Creating a culture of innovation doesn’t have to be a heavy and labor-intensive effort. With the right information and strategy, you can transform your company and your employees into masters of innovation. To sum it up, you will need to express, understand and communicate:
- Why innovation matters
- Where innovation comes from within the company and the individual
- How to create an environment that fosters innovation
- How to achieve on-going employee engagement with innovation
- Specific tools and resources that will help you on your journey
- How to track results in order to maximize success
Armed with this information, you can begin taking meaningful steps to changing the culture at your company and creating a space where innovation is just a part of the job.
(And we do this and make it easy to implement and manage.)