By Dave Hengartner, co-founder/CEO of rready, a SaaS startup supporting companies to unleash the biggest asset for innovation: its employees.
While most organizations and people have now realized how vital the concept of innovation is in determining a company’s growth trajectory, many have yet to understand it or discover how to embrace it in a sustainable way. When it comes to making innovation part of the everyday process and to executing ideas, many organizations seem to struggle.
The ultimate success of a company’s innovation efforts is dependent on many different factors. Beyond selecting an appropriate and comprehensive innovation program, it is also key to have a culture that embraces and enables innovation to prevent great ideas from not being executed and slipping through the cracks.
Here’s my take on a few things that are crucial to running an innovation program in your company that promotes tangible outputs.
1. Be an enabler, not a gatekeeper.
To get an innovation program up and running, you need low barriers to entry for everyone. Complicated processes or internal company politics that can hinder innovation need to be removed. Efforts should be directed to ensure that employees are given the freedom to innovate and submit their ideas, right from the get-go.
2. Ensure program accessibility.
In many companies, a top-down approach is taken toward the overall innovation practices, whereby only a select number of people are involved in innovation. This represents a one-sided approach to innovation since it does not include contributions by employees who are not in senior management positions or part of the innovation department.
The above goes together with ensuring that the program you are implementing at your company is easy for everyone to use and understand. This helps avoid restricting access to only a select number of individuals and enables everyone to participate.
Further, when running an intrapreneurship program, companies will most probably never catch all the great ideas when only initiating a call for ideas once a year. The right moment to start an intrapreneurship journey is different for every employee and subject to many different factors: stress at work, family situations, a trigger for an idea—these are all largely, if not entirely, dependent on the individual. Simply put, when it comes to creativity and problem solving, there’s no way to force it. To ensure that no great idea is lost, it is important to choose a flexible innovation program that allows for the continuous submission of ideas throughout the year.
3. Cultivate an innovation culture.
Harnessing the creativity of your employees in a constructive and sustainable way requires a company culture that supports innovation fully. It is crucial to make your objectives clear from the start. Highlighting the value of an innovation program will help to secure buy-in from upper management and key decision-makers. This will form the basis of establishing an open and inclusive culture that allows everyone to submit ideas freely and make innovation a day-to-day reality.
Cultivating an innovation culture also means making the innovator responsible for their ideas by giving them ownership of them, as well as allowing, valuing and learning from failures. Ideas that are stopped early on can also save your organization resources.
4. Don’t judge raw ideas.
Too often, due to new ideas bringing a lot of uncertainty, an idea is judged too early on, before those behind the idea are able to collect enough data to prove its value to the company.
In essence, innovation efforts succeed by enabling freedom in the early phase of an idea. If you want to see results that are long-lasting and avoid seeing great ideas get lost because they are not executed, it’s important to treat the innovation process as dynamic and inclusive for the whole organization.