“All organisations,” management consultant Peter Drucker once said, “need one core competency: innovation.” While every company wants to stand out, to be ahead of the curve, if you want to break through to the next level of success, you need to adopt innovation as a core business strategy. But the reality of this is that you can’t rush innovation into existence, and when other work duties beckon, you can’t expect innovation to occur overnight.
Innovation takes time. Many organisations are facing the same challenge: making time for innovation. How long does it take to come up with truly innovative idea? When you don’t understand the importance of time to innovation, you can significantly decrease your chances of success. Creativity can be lost in your company because there is no time for people to come up with and build on those synapses.
Does your company really have time for everyone to innovate? If you are serious about driving innovation within your organisation, you need to start putting the right structures in place to support innovation.
The Difference Between Finding Time and Making Time
Inc. makes a good comparison between two specific processes in work time. You may regularly tell your employees to “find” time so they can work together to nurture new ideas. It’s easy to think they can carve out time when so many other responsibilities usurp most hours of the day.
You need to eliminate this concept of time and instead make time for your team to brainstorm. Otherwise, they’ll feel stifled when they realise that other work duties require a full eight hours. Don’t expect your employees to work overtime either and still think with clarity. You’re only going to lead them to burnout.
Set aside certain hours to tackle innovation in steps. On one day, they should have time to just think. Another day should become devoted to planning. Yet another day should focus on research so your ideas stay original.
In an interview with McKinsey & Company about how big companies innovate, Intuit’s co-founder, Scott Cook once said:
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”….we put in a series of systems and a culture where the expectation is that if there’s an idea that someone’s passionate about, we put in a system to make it easy and fast and cheap for them to run an experiment.”[/pullquote]
The 20% Free Time Concept
Maybe you’ve heard about Google’s old “20% Free Time” process they allowed all employees to use. When they enacted this policy, they let their staff choose a day and time to think and create and work on their own ideas that they thought would advance Google. Huge 20% product successes include the development Google News, Gmail, and even AdSense.
The process continually worked, with statistics showing 50% of all products and services from Google came about as a result of the 20% time.
They aren’t the only company once allowing employees to set aside their own time to innovate. Big companies like Yahoo! set aside Hack Days to help their workers collaborate during a 24-hour brainstorming session. Even if you make it a competition, it can get creative flow going when it means winning recognition, prizes, or even a raise.
These companies are worth imitating to create something similar. When you make it about advancing the company as a whole, giving employees free time to innovate inspires them to come up with great concepts.
Eliminating Fear of Employees Working On Their Own Time
One thing to keep in mind about innovating is that businesses don’t innovate, people do. With that, you have to gain your employees trust in enabling them to work on their own time. Far too many business leaders are afraid to give their employees the free creative time out of fear the workers would waste the time given or abuse it. If you’ve hired the right and smart people, trust them enough to use their time wisely to help build the business.
Freedom won’t lead to anarchy. It wins the trust of your employees. People can deliver better when they know their employers trust them enough to give them sufficient time and resources to work freely on projects that they believe could be promising for the future of the company. Freedom is a excellent motivator.
Creating a Pool of Practical Ideas
Outside of Google and other innovative companies, one stands alone: 3M. They’re noted for consistently bringing innovation in their company, and many people continually wonder how they do it.
Their secret is setting up centers and forums where employees meet and share ideas online. 3M’s attention to giving compelling opportunities to their workers helps nurture innovative ideas.
Most importantly, many of the scientists there take time to go into the field and listen to customers to hear what they really want in their products.
As you can see, creating time for employees means hiring those with the best attributes and curiosity to make this work at an optimum level.
Innovation will help you compete for the future and is essential for the sustainability of your company. “The innovation point,” engineering professor W. Arthur Porter says, “is the pivotal moment when talented and motivated people seek the opportunity to act on their ideas and dreams.” Help these ideas come to fruition by creating a clear focus on growing a company where innovation is promoted and can flourish.
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