Leaders often wonder how they can attract innovative talent to their organizations. You know the type: people who have energy, they’re dynamic, and they seem to have great ideas all the time. But what most don’t know is that innovation isn’t usually the product of “idea stars” like that. Innovation often springs from the Co- Workers you already have. You just have to give them the right kind of environment.

Here at Making Sense, we’re all creating that kind of company culture – the kind that fosters innovation from unexpected places. We thought we’d share with you how we do it.

Grant your Team Members the Power to Act On their Own Decisions

You see it all across the board. From SquareSpace to Zappos, empowerment is the magic bullet for innovation. One thing empowered employees all have in common is permission to take risks. Of course by definition, risky business decisions can flop. But for every failure, there could also be the next great breakthrough in innovation that launches your company to new heights of efficiency, growth, brand recognition, or all of the above.

Get Everyone in on Decisions

One could argue that alignment of values is really the foundation of innovation. So you want to make sure you devote enough resources to actually get employees to be vested in the success of the company. Alignment (of values) is not a totally new concept so it shouldn’t be hard to figure out what to do.

Feeling connected to the company values and mission is the main motivator for lots of employees these days. If you’ve read anything about business in the last half-decade or so, many employees want to work for companies whose values match their own. In fact, if there’s anything that employees want to see, it’s a strong sense of values that match their own – even more so than a good salary or a raise!

Those values can be demonstrated in a number of ways, from workplace policies to how meetings are run to the benefits they’re offered. From better health and wellness options to flexible holidays, these are the work-life balance benefits that make employees sing the praise of employers who offer them.

But work benefits, like parental leave or others like gym memberships aren’t the only way to show your values. Keeping everyone in the loop is another way to improve alignment within an organization. Need to push a certain initiative and make sure everyone is on board in the end? The best way to do that is to include them from the beginning. Seek input, listen to your employees, value their opinions, and let them make decisions. That’s putting your money where your mouth is.

Simplify Your Processes and Flatten Out Your Hierarchies

Nothing is more soul-crushing than a good idea that dies in the muck of outdated or inefficient processes. These days, it’s not just software development companies that need to be Agile. If new ideas need to be run through a thick layer of middle management, that takes time. It’s also very demotivational and it crushes future innovation.

Stop making Your People Compete Against One Another

Competition can make us better at our work, but we have to be careful about creating a competitive environment where our employees are reluctant to speak up their ideas for fear that their suggestions will be stolen. Instead, you have to plant the seed of collaboration, developing an environment where your employees feel good to share their ideas and where they find a way to grow and to show their real potential supporting by the whole team.

Practice Work-Life Balance

Everybody knows that stress is the killer of innovation. If you’re not giving yourself time out for doing the things you love (whether it’s your Sunday soccer games or experimenting with your new slow cooker), your creative side will dry up. The same goes for your team. Everybody needs a break because nobody is at their best when they’re doing 60-hour weeks.

Embrace the Full Meaning of Collaboration

When most people hear the word “collaborate”, what comes to mind are images of diverse teams eagerly pitching ideas to one another across a conference room table. But collaboration isn’t limited to just that one concept. It’s also about fostering trust among team members – enough trust so that taking leaps of faith together comes naturally.

Leaps of faith come in all shapes and sizes. From reimagining a solution to getting input from a previously overlooked source to following a hunch someone has, it’s all based on faith that each and everyone on the team is doing their best to achieve a great outcome.

Embrace change Help Your Team Embrace it, Too

Leaders play a key role in encouraging innovation. It’s our job to make sure each team member is challenged to do their best. Very often, that means encouraging them to think more critically. It also means fostering an environment where team members aren’t afraid to offer their opinions and ideas. Even when a product or project seems compete, they should be thinking of ways to make improvements. In short, we should be agents of change, but our teams should also take on the role of disruptor. What does a disruptor do? They do all or some of the following:

  •         Create “new normals”
  •         Look for unseen opportunities around them
  •         Take on the mindset of an entrepreneur
  •         Strive for continuous improvement
  •         Embrace risk and accept that some routes to disruption won’t pan out as they’d hoped

Understand the Difference Between Good and Bad Conflict

Sometimes conflict can inspire ideas. If you think of it as “lively debate” or “spirited brainstorming”, conflict doesn’t seem like a bad thing. In fact, when you have a diverse team full of people from different professional backgrounds and possessing different mindsets and approaches to solving problems, conflict is bound to spring up at some point. But that’s a good thing. Teams don’t thrive and become innovation when everyone’s the same!

One Final Word

If you’re like us, you value innovation at your company. And as we’ve outlined above, innovation springs from empowerment, diversity, trust, and a company culture that fosters the courage to take risks. Hope this has helped!