Three ways to encourage innovation

Business leaders should cultivate a culture of learning to inspire innovation in the workplace, says one expert

Three ways to encourage innovation
“How can today’s leaders motivate employees to embrace the kind of thinking that gives great organisations like Google the first-mover advantage?” asked author and leadership researcher Mark Murphy.

For starters, he said, leaders should cultivate a culture of learning, and not just a culture of ‘doing’. 

While many organisations say they want innovation in the workplace, more than a third of business leaders actually kill creative thinking.

“Distributing a memo or initiating a command that says, ‘Here’s what’s happening and here’s what I want you to do about it’ prevent people from tapping into their full potential because it’s not asking employees to actually think independently; it’s not empowering,” he said in a column for Forbes.  

To inspire employees to be more innovative, Murphy said that there are number of “ways to apply gentle pressure on your people to innovate”, but he abides by three.

Article reading contests
“Start by determining an issue where you want to raise employee awareness (e.g. competitor pricing, customer service, teamwork) and ask employees to bring in a relevant article on the topic and whoever brings in the best article wins a prize,” he said.

He did warn that leaders should expect only a handful of employees participating in this initiative in the beginning, but not to give up and soon employees themselves would actively engage “in debates about the big issues facing the organization and coming up with new ideas for solutions”.

Experience sharing
Sharing experiences across management lines fosters innovation, he said. An open group discussion where managers can relate stories on issues facing the organisation triggers a thought process that actively engages other managers to think differently.

Best practice journal
“Ask your people to document examples of great performance as they see it happening out in the world and make time for sharing these observations at regular staff meetings,” he said, adding that this will inspire employees to be more observant of issues in the organisation and create new avenues of thinking.

“The lesson here is the more you empower your people to learn, the more innovative, fulfilled and smarter they’ll become and that translates to greater organisational success,” he concluded.  

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