Last week, I suggested that you consider two fundamental questions about your focus on—and ownership of—innovative thinking and behavior. As a leader, do you:
- Naturally focus on execution or innovation?
- Personally feel responsible for developing innovations to drive your company forward or do you delegate this to others?
Having considered these questions about yourself, turn to the business environment you are cultivating. Are you establishing an environment that actively encourages innovation?
Ask the following questions of yourself and your leadership team.
Does our team have leaders with a well-known track record for generating innovative ideas for new processes, products, services or businesses?
- Do we actively screen for creativity and innovation skills in our hiring practices?
- Do we evaluate an employee’s creativity or innovation skills and consider it an important part of the performance appraisal process?
Do we often engage in brainstorming to generate wild ideas by drawing analogies from other products, companies or industries?
- Do we encourage team members to ask questions that challenge the status quo or conventional ways of doing things?
- Do we cultivate new ideas by giving people frequent opportunities to observe the activities of customers, competitors, or suppliers?
- Have we instituted formal processes for employees to network outside the company to find new ideas for processes or products?
- Do have processes to allow for frequent experiments or pilots of new ideas in search of new innovations?
- Do we expect everyone to offer creative ideas for how the company might change products and processes?
- Are people on our team unafraid to take risks and fail because top management supports and rewards risk taking?
Innovative companies evolve because innovation is actively embedded into the core of the business and the culture. Leadership proactively engages in, encourages and rewards innovative thinking and behavior. Team members feel empowered to take risks, challenge the status quo and seek out new ideas.
And together, the entire organization can charge forward to new product offerings, new markets and more satisfaction – and fun – in their work.