Are you trying to build a more creative culture within your company? Are you seeking to inspire your team to look at new ideas? Are you trying to build an innovation mindset within your organization? Managing a team can be hard, but it can be even more difficult to change the mindset and culture of an organization. Here, we share a few practical methods and examples on how to inspire creativity and get into an innovation mindset, for both you as well as others in your organization.
How to Inspire an Innovation Culture
In order to grow and innovate, corporations need to foster a mindset and culture that allows for innovative and creative thinking, which can ultimately lead to disruptive new businesses and products. In this blog, we explore six tips on how you can inspire creativity and innovation for yourself, your team, and your organization.
1. Set Time Aside
One of the biggest, and most difficult, barriers of innovation is time-prioritization. We tend to get focused on our myriad of day-to-day responsibilities and obligations leaving little mindspace or resource to think about new ideas. To inculcate an innovation culture, try these things for yourself and your team:
- Block time in your calendar.
- Take out moments from your day to think about things outside of your daily to-do list.
- Get up, take a walk, doodle, go outside, and allow yourself to think about business problems or processes in new ways.
- Create a dedicated team that has time set aside to focus on new ideas.
How can you implement this within your own company? Many are familiar with Google’s 20% policy - a rule that encourages employees to spend 20% of time on whatever project they would like to work on (as long as it is business related). This policy has resulted in the creation of Gmail, Google Maps, Google News, and AdSense, amongst many other products.
A very different example is Patagonia’s policy: “Let my people go surfing time,” a policy created since the company’s founding in the 70s. This policy has shaped the culture of Patagonia by encouraging employees to leave the office when there is the perfect surf, as well as other outdoor activities. As the company’s headquarters are near the beach in southern California, they provide a daily surf report and Patagonia brand towels for those who want to catch some waves.
This initiative is not just about providing a break from work; it is also helping inspire innovation and new thinking at the company. By encouraging employees to take time to enjoy outdoor activities, Patagonia is setting time aside to help people think about their core business and how customers actually use outdoor products. Engaging in these activities also serves as a great testing ground for existing products.
2. Leave Your Comfort Zone
Looking at a problem or pain point from a new perspective can lead to new ways of thinking about solutions, ultimately leading to innovative products and services to solve those issues. Trying new things can really jog your creativity. Leaving your comfort zone is all about doing and seeing things differently in ways that you may have never thought about before. To inspire creative thinking from a different angle, encourage these things:
- Look at pain points from new perspectives.
- Try new ways to solve problems that you have never tried before.
- Put yourself in situations you wouldn’t normally be in. Stretch yourself with different ideas and perspectives.
How do other companies encourage their team to do this? A great example is Intuit’s job swap program.
Intuit encourages employees to switch roles in the company, crossing departments and functions. The model is comparable to a foreign exchange program where students study abroad for a period of time. In this program, individuals swap jobs across varying functions for a period of time, such as someone in marketing switching spots with someone in human resources. By doing this, employees gain a fresh perspective while also learning more about the business as a whole. Employees can make as many swaps as they like, as long as approved by a manager.
To create a more innovative culture at your company, encourage yourself and your team to try new things, learn new skills, and get out of your comfort zone.
3. Cross Collaborate
Collaboration that centers on inclusivity and diversity is key to innovation. Many organizations experience siloed functions, which can lead to an uninspired culture that lacks new thinking. To change this type of attitude, encourage cross-collaboration for yourself and your team:
- Work in cross-functional teams to gain new perspectives and share ideas.
- Talk to friends, colleagues, bosses, and others about your thoughts to get input and build out ideas.
- Collaborate with people from different backgrounds and various skill sets to inspire creativity.
Many companies have taken a proactive approach to cross-collaboration, such as 3M and Toyota.
3M, an American multinational conglomerate corporation with revenue over $30 billion, encourages cross-functional teams. They seek to bring together smart people that have diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise, letting individuals leverage personal strengths and passions. They create teams of Scouts, Entrepreneurs, and Implementers and constantly recombine teams to focus on varying problems and new solutions.
Toyota, the world’s sixth largest company by revenue, also believes in cross-collaboration. Toyota implements cross-functional team collaboration in product design and many other aspects of the business; these cross-functional groups are designed to ensure flexibility and multiple areas of expertise, ultimately giving the company its best-in-class capabilities in production processes, product design, and lean manufacturing.
Even if you are unable to organize your company in cross-functional teams, talking and working with others from different backgrounds (and encouraging this behavior in others) will help move your company toward an innovation mindset and culture.
4. Look Outside
We often get wrapped up in our own company’s processes, politics, and problems. We forget to look outside and see what others are doing. Whether you are trying to conquer the “not invented here” syndrome or navigate groupthink, try and instill these innovation-focused cultural elements:
- Look to other colleagues and companies to see how they approach problems.
- Look at other industries and adapt ideas from one sector to your own.
- Get inspired by how startups approach problems with new technologies or business models.
Internal research and development and internal innovation are still key to a company’s growth - external innovation is just as critical to success. Looking outside to other startups and companies has been a key strategy for many of the most famous brands, and particularly for the largest tech companies.
Apple, for example, not only sources many of its hardware innovations from startups and partners, but also has looked outside the company to invest heavily in artificial intelligence. Since its first AI acquisition in 2010, Siri, Apple has made a total of 13 acquisitions in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Rather than develop these capabilities in-house, the company is looking outside to find the most disruptive players.
Whether you read daily startup news sources or develop an externally-facing investment and acquisition strategy, looking outside of your own organization is critical to growth and success.
5. Ask Why
Curiosity leads to creativity. Asking “why” is essential to developing an innovation mindset and culture - it is about understanding pain points, frustrations, gaps, desires, wants, needs, and the reason things are done the way that they are. Ultimately, these insights can lead to disruptive solutions. Always ask “why”:
- Ask customers what problems and issues they have with your products or services. Ask suppliers for ideas for cost savings and quality improvements.
- Ask colleagues in other departments what could be improved.
- Ask why something is being done a certain way and think about other ways it could be done.
Asking “why” can lead to new products or even a pivot in business, exemplified by Lego’s growth success from 2011-2016.
Lego, the largest leading toy manufacturer in the world, once had trouble acquiring share in a large portion of the market - female children. The company tried several times, unsuccessfully, to launch products specific to the target segment, yet all proved lackluster at best. Lego launched a large-scale study with children, both female and male, to ask “why?” The effort resulted in a new product line, “Lego Friends,” launched in 2011. To that date, the company had been losing money, but after the launch, revenue grew 15% year-over-year to 2016, largely attributed to the introduction of this new line. Asking “why” lead Lego to profitable growth.
Encourage yourself and others to take on an “ask-why-mentality” - this will continually help your business improve and disrupt.
6. Embrace Failure
The final, and most important, point to creating a culture of innovation and inspiring creativity is embracing failure. Traditionally, failure is viewed with shame, but to encourage people to take risks, they must have permission to fail. These elements are essential to building an innovation culture:
- Embrace failure as part of finding success.
- Treat each failure as a learning opportunity. The innovator’s motto is: “I succeed or I learn, but I never fail.”
- Celebrate failure for what you’ve learned from it.
It can be difficult to change the attitude around failure, but it is vital to do so. The Tata Group, a 140 year-old company with nearly 700,000 employees globally, is not what you would typically expect when it comes to failure. The company actually embraces risk-taking and communicates this globally, which has led to the instillation of an innovation culture.
Chairman of Tata Group, Ratan Tata, has been quoted, “No one ever has grown without falling once. Fail as many times as you can, then only you can succeed.”
Even if failure is not an option within your company, there are organizations that are supporting the “failure-leads-to-success” mindset. FuckUp Nights is a global organization in over 300 cities across 80 countries with one primary goal: share, celebrate, and learn from failure. The organization has gained monumental traction across the globe and is helping further the mindset that failure can lead to success.
Inspire Innovation Within Your Organization Through RocketSpace
For corporations and startups alike, achieving success and growth depends on a mindset and culture that allows for innovative and creative thinking, ultimately leading to disruptive new businesses and products. Changing your company’s culture toward an innovation mindset is all about enabling yourself and your team to have the time, the flexibility, the team, the resources, the curiosity, and the permission for doing things differently.
Are you ready to take advantage of RocketSpace’s innovation services and expertise to help your organization get into the right mindset? Check out our Corporate Innovation Services or utilize The Ultimate Corporate Innovation Playbook.