As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Yet, that doesn’t seem to tell the whole story.
If you ask us, the unsung hero of invention is innovation. The two are practically inseparable, particularly if you’re working at a startup.
By encouraging new and innovative ideas, you can do so much more than you previously thought. Solve problems you didn’t even know existed or come up with an exciting new product, for instance.
Of course, it’s one thing to talk the talk, but you’ll need to walk the walk if you truly want to encourage creativity.
Here are 10 great ways that you can encourage innovation in your workplace.
1) Encourage Active Listening
Simply hearing what someone says and actually listening to their thoughts and ideas are two very different processes. The former is inherently passive while the later takes a more active approach.
On that note, you and your team would do well to look into active listening.
Widely regarded as one of the most important skills for startup employees or those in leadership to have, active listening is a more involved approach to conversation.
It involves an intense focus on what your partner is saying, often calling for direct feedback and response.
So next time you’re sitting at a meeting, try and take an active approach. Instead of zoning out, try actively listening to what the speaker is saying.
You’ll soon find that it’s an invaluable skill that makes you more attractive to clients and coworkers alike.
2) Encourage Personal Projects
When Google was just a small startup, they found themselves in the spotlight for one of their workplace policies.
They allowed employees to dedicate 20 percent of their workday to personal projects, even if they had nothing to do with their work at Google.
Executives found that employees weren’t just more productive — they were flat-out happier!
While Google abolished the 20 percent rule a few years ago, many companies are picking up the vibe Google put out, allowing at least some free time throughout the day.
Allowing time for personal projects, even if it’s only a half hour or so, can be extremely beneficial to the workplace.
3) Built An Office-Wide Rapport
Sometimes it can be hard to separate your coworkers from the workplace. But at the end of the day, you’re all just people.
And chances are your workplace would be a lot more productive if everyone took the time to get to know one another.
Encourage employees to socialize and build a rapport in the workplace. Doing so fosters friendships while creating an open atmosphere that can directly encourage innovation.
4) Encourage Innovation Through Incentives
Everyone likes a reward. And research suggests that providing incentives is one of the best ways to encourage innovation.
Plenty of small businesses and startups use creative incentives to encourage employees to stay focused. While getting paid is certainly nice, it isn’t always enough of an incentive to do more than the bare minimum.
Imagine you’re working in an office testing code. Day in and day out you go through lines of code looking for bugs. After a while, it’d get pretty tedious and you’d start to zone out. Now imagine you’re offered a $500 bonus for every bug you catch.
While the exact type of incentive (sometimes an extra vacation day works as well as money) is up to you, it’s clear the employees love incentives.
5) Take Suggestions
If nothing else, employees just want to know that their opinions matter.
Sometimes all you need to encourage innovation is to make yourself more open to suggestions. Allowing employees to voice concerns or ask questions can create a more open and welcoming atmosphere.
Take feedback from your team on a semi-regular basis. At least quarterly, get together and see how your team is feeling.
It’s a great opportunity for employees to feel heard and that everyone is equal.
6) Learn From The Past
One of the best ways to improve a business is by learning from flubs along the way. Make no mistake, failure is far from a bad thing.
In fact, if it weren’t for failure, we wouldn’t have dozens of the things we enjoy today. From vehicles to the very piece of technology you’re using to read this article, everyone fails at some point.
What matters is how we learn from those mistakes.
When something goes wrong, learn how to view it as an opportunity. Examine why the outcome was negative and what can be done in the future to ensure success.
7) Encourage Multi-Team Projects
Employees working at a startup with multiple teams may not ever have an opportunity to meet coworkers outside of their team. This is a huge mistake.
Not only does it make your office feel cliquish, but it can very easily lead to groupthink. It’s recommended that brands with multiple teams collaborate on a regular basis.
Collaboration is a great way to expand one’s horizons and see things from a brand new perspective.
8) Give Credit Where Credit Is Due
Even in a small startup environment, it’s easy to feel lost in the shuffle. If an employee’s work is hardly recognized, they’ll start to feel invisible.
They may even think that their work doesn’t matter or that they aren’t valued.
A great (and easy) way to show your appreciation is by recognizing hard work. Give credit when someone knocks it out of the park.
You’d be amazed at how recognition can encourage innovation and speed up productivity.
9) Incorporate Feedback
Earlier, we discussed the importance of hearing employees out. But there’s more to it than that.
Listening to employee feedback is great, but incorporating it is far more effective. It shows that you’re really listening and care about the concerns of those at your office.
A little effort goes a long way.
10) Give Employees Space
If you worked in an environment where your boss was constantly hovering over you (think Bill Lumbergh from Office Space) you probably wouldn’t get much done.
Employees need space to think, so give it to them. Allowing employees to have that space shows a distinct sense of trust.
Encourage Innovation With These Tips
Incorporating these ten tips into your workplace is almost guaranteed to encourage creativity.
Want to learn more ways to boost morale and improve productivity in the workplace? Be sure to browse our management blog to learn tips that will make your office a more fun, creative place to work.