How to Encourage Innovation from All Levels of Your Organization

Joseph Schumpeter, the famed Austrian American economist, was an early proponent of entrepreneurship and innovation. He believed successful companies would continue to extend and defend what they did best until they became meaningless. To counter this terminal approach to business, he advocated innovation by entrepreneurs, which would be the disruptive force that would sustain economic growth.

We are surrounded by companies whose innovative approach to market has changed the world-- Microsoft, Apple and Rubbermaid are a few examples. These are well-recognized brands/products at very large scale. Innovation in small organizations is a necessary force to enhance our economy. Note the rise of recent local start-ups like Grub Hub, Groupon and Red Frog.

Organizations that are leading marketplace innovators have employee engagement scores typically above 85 percent. They have gone beyond engagement to employee entanglement. The following are steps that organizations can implement that will result in a breeding environment for innovation and thus entangle an organization.

Organizational innovation always starts with leaders who possess high levels of psychological capital, self confidence and belief in their staff. These leaders do extraordinary things; they allow their staff to think of new approaches, new products and to fail while innovating. This is not the ordinary approach to management and therein lies the significant foundation for innovation.

Mental disruptors are lessened or removed when ethics are woven through the organizational fiber. By building an ethical organization, the result is a feeling of trust and security that facilitates innovate thinking.

Screen for skill, but hire for attitude. Hire staff that can adhere to the organization’s core values, then allow them freedom to create while maintaining responsibility to the organization in terms of time and resources spent in the pursuit of innovation. This is how you can focus all the human capital. If a form of the word innovation exists within the organization’s culture statements, and leadership actively supports the culture statements, innovation will result.

Recognition, reward and lifelong learning are the building blocks for increased self-efficacy. Organizations that foster these aforementioned three activities to increase an individual’s self-efficacy see an increase in individual discretionary thinking that results in more personal thoughts that intrinsically align with the organization’s vision and mission statements.

Young buyers understand emerging markets faster than senior leaders. Senior leaders have established networks, contacts and access to capital. By formalizing the generation integration processes you can guide the transformation process to remarkable results.

Tom Walter has started 29 businesses and acquired three over the past 40+ years. He is a principal in nine companies, five of which were co-started by his employees. He is a co-author of the book, It’s My Company Too! How Entangled Companies Move Beyond Employee Engagement For Remarkable Results.

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