Five ways to create a culture of innovation in the workplace
Staff must be encouraged to generate and develop ideas in order to create a culture of innovation
Give staff time to work on ideas: more companies are giving staff time away from the daily grind to work on projects
Albert Einstein had it right when he said: “We cannot solve our problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” The translation of this is companies and people must evolve their thinking and try new things if they are to survive and grow. In other words, they must innovate.
Innovation is a hot topic these days. More than just a buzzword, it’s what sets successful businesses apart, giving them a competitive advantage. But the business world is often focused on results and returns, making it difficult to create a culture focused on new ideas and long-term gains.
While every business starts from an entrepreneurial mindset, with somebody delivering a new or improved product or service to the market, the firm often becomes less forward-thinking, taking a more defensive position as opposed to offensive, as it grows. The move to innovate by many companies is derived from a need to address problems. However, the most successful companies opt to innovate in order to raise the bar.
Take ByrneWallace for example. “We have been early adopters to software that helps us to manage complex and high-volume cases in a unique way relative to our peers. One aspect of this is our ability to export project data securely to clients. This has enhances information flows to clients as well as client collaboration,” Byrne Wallace partner Michael Walsh says.
But in order to innovate, companies need to create a culture of innovation among employees, one where staff are encouraged to generate and develop ideas.
Companies must let employees know they are open for innovation. Some companies do this by creating a designated space where employees can be creative. Most office spaces, which are normally a sea of cubicles, have little room physically and emotionally where creativity and innovation can flourish.
Intel built an innovation Open Lab in Ireland to facilitate and enhance open research and innovation opportunities for the company.
“One room in the innovation lab is the kitchen. It has whiteboards from top to bottom all over the room so people can improvise and create prototypes in real time. There is a certain ambience in the room which lets people know they have permission and license to innovate,” according to Martin Curley, director of Intel Labs Europe.
He says a lot of people forget about the need to create a culture of innovation when it comes to generating ideas and forward planning.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast every time. Unless the culture is in place it’s difficult to make progress on the innovation front.”
Vodafone spent €2.5 million redeveloping its 1,100 strong headquarters in Leopardstown, Co Dublin, removing private offices, cubicles and meeting rooms as part of a New Ways of Working strategy. There are central areas where people can relax and have coffee and symbols of power or privilege no longer exist. Employees come into work and sit wherever they can find available space. Not even the CEO has his own desk.
“Different areas of the business were working in silos, this tended to hold back new ideas and creativity and we decided to design a new working environment that would encourage communication,” Vodafone Ireland HR director Rachel Mooney says.
She says the flexibility of New Ways of Working was driving innovation by creating opportunities for conversation between everyone not only across different departments but most importantly at different levels.