Innovation is the name in life. Humans are hardwired to create, break, and rebuild again and again. Our natural desire to invent, experiment, and produce has allowed us to make technological breakthroughs that have radically changed the course of history.
Entrepreneurship is all about continuous innovation. This is how business leaders can create niches, target future markets, and maintain a competitive edge. It turns out that crises can be our most significant source of inspiration for innovation. For example, the COVID-19 epidemic has highlighted many modern problems. It might also explain why 73% of respondents to a KPMG study believe COVID-19 helped them put more emphasis on innovation. 60% were among the top global research and development spenders in 2020.
Although innovation is often a do-or-die issue in business, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Disengaged employees that aren’t connected with your mission can quickly slow down innovation across your team. Even genuinely motivated and enthusiastic employees can be impeded by competing priorities and unrealistic deadlines. If your C-suite has a low-risk tolerance, it will be hard to justify spending the time and resources necessary for experimentation and creativity.
These are the steps you need to empower your employees.
1. Clear vision is essential.
It’s common for an innovation program to fail to deliver results because it doesn’t align with its business and innovation goals. This isn’t a problem that you are alone if it does. More Business executives surveyed by PwC claimed that they struggle with integrating their business and innovation strategies. This is the top management problem for nearly two-thirds of companies who say they devote 15% or more to innovation.
Stop wasting your time on incongruent spurts to innovation. In any innovation project, the first thing you should do is outline your goals and explain how they fit into your overall mission. It is possible to be looking for the wrong reason. Everyone can fall prey to “shiny object syndrome,” especially when emerging technologies offer tempting prospects of market dominance. Exploring the possibilities of 3D printing for your business can be very exciting. But if it isn’t in line with your strategic vision, it will lead to wasted time and resources.
Innovating doesn’t happen alone. Therefore, it is needed to ensure that your workers are informed. Even if your business strategy is well-defined, it’s vital to communicate the innovation strategy and connect with employees. How does this project relate to the job? Without a clear picture of the broader context in which innovation is placed, it will be nearly impossible to produce the results you want.
2. Give your team the tools they need.
Isaac Newton might want you to believe that you won’t find your next breakthrough under an Apple tree, no matter what you try, because innovation is not a result of luck or chance. The only process to truly innovate is to find and use the correct data about your business, customers, or industry. But, before your data’s superpowers can be activated, you have to equip your team.
Matthew Rocklin, CEO of Coiled, recommends using DataOps to empower your team’s ability to innovate with data. Rocklin states that “most analysts don’t know where the data are.” Rocklin states that most analysts don’t know where the data is, or if they do know, it’s so messy and raw it’s impossible to use. DataOps platforms provide access to clean, ready-to-use data to those who need it.
These platforms allow you and your team members to understand how your data has been used so that you can ensure it is used correctly. Rocklin states that accessing a dataset can become complicated or dangerous once a team knows a dataset. Without a DataOps platform (which is informal copies of sensitive information filtered within an organization), they access the data quickly or unsafely. DataOps platforms make data sharing more secure and efficient, allowing your company to innovate more effectively.
3. Offer psychological safety.
All the data analysis software won’t save your innovation efforts in the world if your employees are afraid of reprisal and don’t want to share their ideas. Are budget cuts and job losses expected for companies that fail? Are employees reluctant to speak out at company-wide meetings? This is why people won’t experiment if they are afraid to speak up at company meetings.
To drive innovation, it is essential to create a culture of psychological safety for your employees that encourages growth. Yujin Lee, B-Reel’s executive creative director, ensures that this is achieved at the top of her company. “It is evident that our executives’ authenticity has a trickle-down effect that creates an environment that is relaxed and psychologically secure for people to talk their mind, work independently and be themselves,” she writes. You can increase psychological safety within your organization by being vulnerable. Openly discuss your failures and what you have learned. Also, share how you plan on improving the company in the future. Recognize those who took risky steps, learned tough lessons, and gained from them.
Add some structure. It isn’t practical to let your employees throw things at a wall and hope something sticks. Instead, set up controlled environments such as Google that allow employees to experiment and explore without being expected.
Humanity has made incredible technological, environmental, and social advances through continuous innovation throughout human history. Every business leader worth his salt knows what innovation means and why it’s so important. If they equip their teams with the right tools, a strategic vision, and the psychological safety that they need, you never know what kind or level of innovation they’ll be able to achieve next.