Three Strategies to Drive Innovation in Your People

The future is now. Your current workforce may sustain your company, but will it grow with it? In order to propel your company forward amidst a technological and cultural evolution, you must embrace new ideas, creativity, and innovation. With this mindset, it is essential to innovate how you approach your people.   

1. Broaden the talent pool

Broaden your recruitment strategy for culture add, versus culture fit.  Make a conscious effort to draw in fresh talent, and discourage “safe hires” who bring nothing new to the table. Ultimately, the talent that you need to innovate may not be the same ones who have traditionally driven success for your firm. 

What questions can you ask job candidates to reveal their problem-solving track record? What can you do to push the boundaries of recruiting diverse candidates – not only in gender and race, but also in diversity of thought, perspectives, and styles?

Consider looking in places that may seemingly have nothing to do with your industry. For example, a manufacturing company could invite speakers to talk about philosophy or art. A service-based business may seek speakers on process reengineering or theory of constraints. You’ll be surprised at the new ideas and inspiration that flow.

Innovation doesn’t come from tried and true.

Most innovations come from taking your existing experience and combining it with a new idea to create a third idea that did not exist before. It may feel uncomfortable, but innovation doesn’t come from tried and true. 

2. Build intentional culture

There is no bigger barrier to innovation than a toxic, unsupportive culture. Even if you don’t pay attention to it, you will still have a workplace culture. It may just not be what you want. Look for patterns of behavior that block the culture you are seeking, and work to foster a diverse, inclusive, and safe culture. It takes intentionality and courage.

Employees need to feel that they can exchange and pursue ideas freely, without fear of judgment or failure. The best way to get really good ideas is to have lots and lots of them. Some will be spectacular, and some will be complete duds. That’s ok.

For maximum creativity, start from the top-down. Did an initiative not go according to plan? Prompt the CEO to share it at the next all-staff meeting, in the name of continuous learning and personal growth. There is enormous power in asking thoughtful, focused, and courageous questions. Great questions lead to great answers and great innovations.

Hire talented people and empower them to take risks.

In order to retain the employees you need to grow, hire talented people and empower them to take risks. You can do this while understanding the guard rails so that those risks don’t endanger the company.

3. Inspire Performance

Workplace anniversaries are all well and good, but could you also honor employees who conceive a new product or process? Could innovation become one of the many ingredients that leads to promotion? People  possess ingenuity, an innately human talent that cannot be automated or replaced by robots. Your job is to bring out that creativity full-force. 

Have the mindset of a disruptor. Be willing to embrace creative destruction. If someone is going to replace your product or service with something better, it should be you and not your competition. Put yourself in your competitor’s shoes, and poke holes to find those key lever points to innovate upon.

Don’t let perfection get in your way. It’s overrated and impossible to achieve.  We often get caught up in ensuring every “t” is crossed and every “i” is dotted before launching a new product or service. While quality is important, you can go to market with something less than absolutely perfect. You will benefit from getting customer feedback on a real product or solution.  

Push your people to innovate, while making it safe for them to fail.

One of the best ways to succeed quickly is to fail faster than any of your competitors. Push your people to be highly innovative while making it safe for them to fail. They will learn from their failures and iterate faster toward success.

Your rewards and incentives need to reinforce the innovative behaviors you want to see. If you punish people for challenging management or  excessively reward those that take unfettered risk, you create an imbalance in the organization. Rewards and incentives are not only financial. Recognize people who show creativity with praise, positive feedback, and opportunities to innovate more.

What is Innovation?
created by ALAKAI2 during founder Shaara Roman’s recent speech “How to Drive Innovation in Your Workforce” with HR Alliance DC