The world we live in today is in a constant state of technological flux. Industries evolve and improve at an increasingly rapid pace, and those trends are reported on and digested at an equally speedy clip.
In order to stay at the forefront of this evolution, successful companies create a corporate culture of innovation that transcends every level of the corporate ladder. From the new hire straight out of college to the executives in senior leadership positions, the entire company puts a premium on new ideas and creativity.
A culture doesn’t happen by accident – it takes leadership that is willing to invest in and foster it, and employees who are engaged and looking beyond their day-to-day responsibilities.
These are some of the building blocks needed to create a corporate culture of innovation.
Budget the Time
In a busy industry, it can be easy to get swept up in the day-to-day tasks without ever taking the blinders off and looking at the bigger picture. But if you’re serious about building a culture of innovation in your office, the first step is carving out time when employees can actually innovate.
The most famous example of budgeting time for innovation is Google’s 20 percent rule, by which 20 percent of their employees’ time could be spent working on side projects. That policy helped create products like Gmail and AdSense, but Google has recently tightened that policy as they’ve continued to grow.
While that exact execution isn’t applicable for every company, allowing your employees to budget some time for industry research or training courses will ensure that your company always has an ear to the ground and can adjust to industry and technology shifts quickly and effectively.
Just as newspapers assign beats for their reporters to cover, tasking employees with specific segments of your industry to follow will keep your entire office informed on breaking developments, and will help them start building an expertise that can be applied to new projects.
The key is to find subjects that each of your employees are interested in, then empower them to dive deeper into those subjects. Passion is a key component to innovation. You want your employees excited and motivated about what they’re covering, so align their personal interests in a way that also benefits the office at large.
Once employees are exploring things outside of your company’s walls, consider the best way to turn the insights they’re gleaning into actionable output. That could mean the occasional email to a client with a suggestion based on a development an employee has been tracking, or an internal newsletter that highlights trends in your industry. Finding ways to share knowledge and simply having conversations about the industry will help innovation thrive.
Bring in Outside Experts
Fresh perspectives are critical to sparking creativity and innovation, especially perspectives outside of your company’s immediate field of business.
Be on the lookout for forward thinkers who are doing innovative things in their fields, then tap them to come into your office to talk to your employees. While the work they’re doing might not be directly applicable, their larger approach to innovation and thinking can generally be applied across industries.
When setting up time with outside experts, lunch-and-learns or happy hour mixers are a great way to disrupt your employees’ routines (in a good way) and carve out a set period of time to forget about work. Getting your employees up and away from their desks will put them in a different frame of mind and free them to start thinking more broadly and outside of the box.
Invest In Your Employees
Building an innovative culture takes more than just research – it takes investing in your employees and arming them with the tools and knowledge they need to be great.
Look for opportunities to send your employees to skill-building workshops, trade shows, and even team-building exercises. When an employee is growing and, most importantly, happy, they’ll be more energized and empowered to think creatively.
Build your corporate culture around the pursuit of knowledge and the open sharing of ideas. Do that, and innovation will thrive.