What message does your work environment send to employees and customers about your philosophy and approach to innovation and change? Do you want clients to view your business as being at the forefront of your industry, and yet people in your organization resist change and can’t quickly solve clients’ problems in new ways? An innovative business relies on every member to be on the lookout for trends and shifts in the marketplace. If only the entrepreneur or the management team searches for new opportunities, the business will find it nearly impossible to keep up with change, let alone grow. In fact, successful small businesses need every member’s creative contributions to keep them on the innovative edge of the industry and marketplace. So how can you create an innovation-friendly environment that encourages the continual flow of ideas and embraces change?
Provide as much information as possible to employees. Knowledge stimulates creativity, and people cannot solve problems they don’t know exist. Tell employees and team members about problems; don’t try to solve everything yourself.
Give employees permission to say yes to customers, suppliers, or others they interact with and make sure they have the resources they need to solve problems on the spot.
Encourage experimentation. Reward nice tries instead of focusing only on mistakes. Make heroes out of the people who solve a problem in a different way so others get the courage to emulate them.
Encourage employees to improve one thing every day. Set up a suggestion system that collects ideas and solutions; provides feedback to everyone who contributes an idea, explaining whether or not it will be used and why; and rewards participation through recognition by the management team.
Lisa Gundry, PhD
Co-author with Jill Kickul of Entrepreneurship Strategy: Changing Patterns in New Venture Creation, Growth, and Reinvention
Professor of Management and director, Center for Creativity & Innovation
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