You see around you sterile white cubicles, illuminated by harsh fluorescent lights. Sniff the air – that’s the acrid smell of old carpet and mind-numbing tedium. This is the office worker’s natural habitat. There’s even a name for them in TV Tropes – Cubicle Drones.
How do you overcome such lethargy? The primary focus of many organizations is results, results, results – completely neglecting the journey from conception to product. It is no secret that ingenuity, or lack thereof, can make or break a business. Despite its undeniable importance, the mentality of many unfeeling bosses is to simply shake an employee upside-down until new ideas fall out from their pockets.
So, how does one go about encouraging the birth of new ideas in their business? Read on for seven ideas that you can implement, to foster an innovative working environment.
#1 Reduce Stress
There is a reason that this is at the top of the list – there is nothing quite like stress for crushing creativity. Being in a stressful work environment will reduce employee morale, and have a negative effect on your bottom line. While it is impossible to completely remove stress from the workplace, there are ways to manage it.installCore team bonding.
One of the top causes of workplace stress, is consistently having too much to do. When a person have too much on their plate, it can cause an overwhelming sense of being out of control. It creates a tendency to go through work mechanically, landing you with a cubicle drone. Nip the problem in the bud and delegate work properly. Ensure that assignments are evenly divided among employees and properly prioritized.
#2 Team Spirit
Nobody wants to work for a company that don’t care about its employees. Promote a relaxed and friendly work environment by implementing policies that will make people feel more valued as employees.
Company outings and incentive programs are excellent for improving workplace relations. Employers should be encouraged to be more personable with employees. People are more likely to perform well for someone that they regard as a person, as opposed to an emotionless taskmaster. Not only will this allow creative ideas to flow more easily, it will also foster team spirit.
#3 Look for Diversity
While the primary focus is on hiring an individual based on their skill level, it is equally important to bring diversity into the company. Indeed, a team of people who share the same visions and ideals will work well as a cohesive unit.
However, you should shake things up – look for people who will strike sparks off each other and contribute different views. After all, how can someone be innovative if they’re constantly surrounded only by people who share their own opinions? Adding a variety of characters into the mix will enhance the creative potential of everyone involved.
Our fearless leader…and his owner.
#4 Productive Free Time
One of the strongest catalysts for innovation is free time – but we are not asking employers to sacrifice productivity. Allowing people to kick back and ruminate can greatly increase the potential for creativity. However, this will only work if they are guided in the appropriate direction to utilize that free time in a dynamic manner.
Google is well-known as an advocate for useful free time. Employees are allowed one day a week as free time, during which they are encouraged to experiment and brainstorm on new ideas. Of course, such a strategy could backfire – which is why there are guidelines regarding this free time. The key to productive free time is focused energy and inherent interest.
#5 Take on Passionate People
Generally, people who enjoy their work will churn out a high quality product. This ties into the ‘inherent interest’ that was mentioned in the previous entry – employees who takes an interest in their company are motivated to innovate and improve.
Look for people who are enthusiastic about what they do, and are always ready to learn more about their job. When you interview candidates, you will want to look out for discussion about specifics and an in-depth knowledge about their industry. When they believe in what they do, work is always fun. Obstacles are merely challenges to be surmounted. People like this will always aim for quality new ideas.
#6 Know Your Competitors
To be successful, you must be inventive. How do you know if you’re being inventive, if you don’t know what has already been done? The short answer is, you can’t! To be innovative, you must stand out from your competitors and do something different.
Successful entrepreneurs constantly scan the marketplace, regularly traveling to trade fairs and conventions. There is no shame in learning from your chief competitors – study their concepts and take notes on their successes and failures. Staying ahead of the curve is important, but making sure that you aren’t getting left behind is absolutely essential.
#7 Cultivate a Flat Management Structure
Giving your staff autonomy and having a flat structure – where anyone can talk to everyone else – encourages innovation by enabling opportunities for dialogue between upper management and standard employees. Create a ‘no blame’ culture, which will embolden staff to contribute ideas without fear of consequences.
With a flat management structure, you can strengthen employees’ confidence and promote more thinking outside the box. Nobody should be afraid to speak up, and cowed into holding their tongue on ideas. Bosses that promote a more open environment are also often the most popular with their employees.
What are your tips for creating an innovative workplace?