The very first time I came consciously in contact with the word “innovation” was in Agricultural Science class, I remembered my teacher going on about the certain types of farmers we have and at the top of the list is “the Innovators” while at the bottom we have “the Laggards”. The innovators are those that take the extra step towards getting new ideas to improve the turnout of the farm produce, you see them going about getting new and improved machinery, farming styles, pesticides and so on while the laggards are just static, they keep to the old ways, don’t accept new ideas and if at all its usually when its late and at times not so useful.

According to business dictionary, Innovation is the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay. To be called an innovation, an idea must be replicable at an economical cost and must satisfy a specific need. Innovation involves deliberate application of information, imagination and initiative in deriving greater or different values from resources, and includes all processes by which new ideas are generated and converted into useful products. In business, innovation often results when ideas are applied by the company in order to further satisfy the needs and expectations of the customers.

An innovative workplace requires a leader who can provide the right combination of people, processes and focus. The issue is that for most companies, especially those that would rather build an innovative structure, rather than teaching their team/employees a structured way of thinking, might not have much of a tangible an advantage in the marketplace, compared to those that build their team/employees. This means that they must balance their investment with their potential outcome.

Here are some ideas to help cultivate creativity in your organization.

Hiring: The startup scene today is an overcrowded space where companies are constantly vying for talent. But hiring talented people is the very first step in cultivating an innovative and creative environment and employees. Look for candidates/people who understand your vision and align with your culture. Having a team that shares one vision and works together helps the organization run smoothly. These are people who love what they do; who are driven, passionate about their work and interesting to work with.

Diversify: Be sure to create a team with different backgrounds, passions, and capabilities. Having a group with a diverse set of ideas and problem-solving approaches helps push your products and services forward. (according to Forbes) Embrace and celebrate your team members’ individuality — out of the box ideas and problem-solving approaches helps push your product forward.

Involve: involve your employees, if people aren’t feeling connected to your firm, there’s little to no incentive for them to be innovative. Ensure your employees are in the loop on your firm’s strategies and challenges, and invite their input. Employees who are involved early on in processes and plans will be motivated to see them through to completion. Their active participation will fuel more ideas than if they learn of initiatives firsthand.

Encourage: Allocate time for new ideas to emerge. i.e. encourage brainstorming, hold regular group workshops and arrange team days out. A team involved in a brainstorming session is likely to be more effective than the sum of its parts. You can also place suggestion boxes around the workplace, appeal for new ideas to solve specific problems and always keep your door open for new ideas.

Structure: Build structured thought process for innovation, a common misconception is that structure is the deterrent to creative thinking. According to Jewett who disagreed with the common notion. He outlined the four concrete steps to the innovative process:

  • Define the essence of the problem
  • Embrace constraints
  • Generate quick-test and select ideas then
  • Execute

According to him “You must do steps 1 and 2 before you start having idea fun in step 3,” said. “Step 3 is iterative, and only when you emerge victorious from step 3 do you move on to execution. Most companies merely set an innovation intention and fund the process. Teaching their natural innovators this simple, structured process can help yield great innovation returns, and often transform the competitive landscape.”

Following these four steps can help companies break away from the incorrect notion that there are “no bad ideas.”

Train: Educate your staff. They may be able to bounce an idea around, but be unfamiliar with the skills involved in creative problem-solving. You may find training sessions in formal techniques such as lateral thinking and mind-mapping worthwhile.

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