Smart leaders know they have to maintain a competitive edge within their industries in order to sustain their slice of the marketplace pie. It remains essential, therefore, that a business continually improves what it offers and how it operates.
The two most important questions on a leader’s mind are always:
- How do we increase the benefits we offer our clients, and
- How can we improve our operations?
Successful business leaders are constantly looking for ways to improve their products and services, and simultaneously streamline production costs. This is no easy feat and takes continual monitoring, yet this is the equation for building success.
But ideas for improvement that lead to success don’t just happen–it takes a concerted effort to encourage innovation from your staff. So how does a leader encourage innovation in the workplace?
1. Encourage alternative points of view.
Yes, there’s usually more than one way to solve a problem, but it becomes more beneficial to find the most efficient and cost-effective way. Cognitive diversity in the workplace is a healthy attribute. Looking at different options to address issues and different ways of completing tasks can keep a workplace vibrant and more open to new ideas.
2. Inspire people to voice their opinions.
Eighty percent of creative new ideas come from your employees on the front line; less than 20 percent of business innovation is generated from members of the C-Suite. The question on employees’ minds should always be, “How can we do things better and how can we provide better services to our customers?” If you are willing to take the advice of employees when they suggest how they can improve operations, there will be a noticeable increase of new ideas.
3. Model and promote fearless behavior.
If you want employees to feel safe trying out new ideas in the workplace, they need to be assured that any mistakes they may make while testing new ideas will not cause a backlash for them. The best way to get a workforce comfortable to take risks is to model the way. Your employees will be more willing to take risks with their ideas if you communicate when you have tried something and it didn’t turn out as expected.
Mistakes provide opportunities for learning and making more informed decisions in the future. Open communication promoting the idea there should be no fear in making a mistake will encourage employees to be more willing to test their ideas, and an innovative mindset will begin to take hold.
4. Consider continual improvement one of the company’s core values.
List continual improvement as one of the foundational values upon which your company operates. Show examples of how continuous improvement has been incorporated throughout the organization—from product design through operating procedures. This attitude should be pervasive throughout the business.
5. Reward innovative ideas.
When employees introduce ideas that are incorporated into the company’s operations and services, recognize their efforts. Public recognition in the company’s newsletter or in employee meetings goes a long way in motivating people to voice their suggestions. Holding employee contests to incorporate new ideas is another way to create a team attitude within the company. People will go the extra mile when they feel respected and recognized.