You’re likely familiar with companies like GE and Google that are continuously recognized as some of the world’s most innovative companies. For many years, innovation has been a buzzword in the business world, but it is much more than just a saying.
Innovation truly has no limits. It’s a concept that continues to drive business strategy and growth –not only within global organizations, but also in small and medium sized businesses in all corners of the world. Today, businesses of all sizes are finding ways to revolutionize their products, their functions, their operations, their processes and even their business models.
Outlined below are five strategies I have found useful in my own business journey, to help inspire novelty and entrepreneurship amongst my team. By adopting these ideas, you too will likely see a shift in the way your team is thinking, working and communicating:
- Lead by example: As a business leader, you have the unique opportunity to embed creative thinking and collaboration into the core of your business. In my experience, if you foster a creative and open environment, and are passionate about the work that you’re doing, innovation will happen naturally. Ask yourself, “Is there something I can do differently to encourage innovation within my business?” If the answer is “yes,” think about how you can adjust your approach, and your communications, so that your team feels inspired to think outside of the box.
- Hire for diversity: In my opinion, the people you work with are your most valuable resources. Having a team with different backgrounds, interests and capabilities is optimal, and should be a key component of your organizational strategy, as it will allow you to get a range of perspectives on any one idea. In fact, research conducted by CEB Global and Talent Innovation suggests that with a diverse team, you’ll see 1.57x more collaboration among teams, and that 75% of employees are more likely to see their idea implemented.
- Encourage risk taking: It’s easy to say “no” to an idea because it’s too risky, or because it may take too much time or money, to implement. To ensure that you, and your team, have the courage and the ability to take calculated risks, it’s important to put in place an ‘innovation process’ that helps you evaluate ideas and opportunities. Each process will look a bit different – for some businesses, a simple, three-step process may sufficient. But for a larger business, a more robust approach may be required. Be prepared for when an idea doesn’t work out – understand why, then develop it further or move on to another idea. Interestingly, some of the world’s most successful companies openly encourage their teams to make high-impact decisions, even if that means they may make a mistake or get it wrong some of the time.
- Plan brainstorms: Consider setting aside a few minutes each week to think creatively about business solutions, and encourage your team to do the same. To get the most dynamic ideas from your team, encourage individuals from different departments, and with different functions, to brainstorm together, so they can bounce ideas off each other. Diversity within brainstorming fosters multi-faceted results that incorporate various perspectives.
- Reward successes: As I previously mentioned, it’s essential to encourage risk taking amongst your team. As risks are taken, they should also be celebrated – even if ideas don’t come to fruition. Create a number of incentives to draw out creativity, and be sure to celebrate your team’s successes, as this will encourage them to keep thinking outside of the box, and keep sharing inventive ideas. With time, innovation will be part of your organization’s culture, and always top of mind for your team.
Within BNI, one of our Core Values is Traditions + Innovation. While our traditions are rich, and lay the foundation of who we are, as an organization we’re always looking for ways to innovate to ensure we remain on a path of growth. Each and every day I’m inspired by the terrific ideas seen across the organization – from our BNI Leaders around the world, from our members, and from our Global Support Team based in Charlotte, Castlebar and Bangalore. It’s especially exciting to see many of these ideas become a reality. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, and are interested in becoming a global BNI leader, I’d encourage you to visit www.bnifranchise.com.
As business leaders, we all have the responsibility to be bold thinkers, and to encourage our team to do the same. We can all think big. We can all make suggestions for improvements and changes. We can all drive significant positive change.