Five Ways to Create a Culture of Innovation

One of my favorite business quotes is, “The Law of Gravity applies to business. If your company is not growing, it is receding.” If I had to improve upon that phrase, I would exchange the word ‘growing’ for ‘innovating’ and it would explain one of my core philosophies for Synapse.

Every company wants to be known as innovative, creative, outside-the-box. Whether that’s defined as creating an entirely new business model or simply building a better mousetrap, nearly all game-changing companies focus their efforts on improving how business is done in their industry. Yet, for many companies, creating a culture where innovation is encouraged and expected is scary – perhaps a goal too daunting that even the leaders struggle to take a baby step forward. If you are in a similar quandary – or simply want to accelerate your rate of innovation – here are five things to do today to start you on the path to becoming a more innovative company.

1. Don’t be afraid to fail.

Redefine failure. Ideas, even those that don’t directly lead to bottom line gains, foster an environment where employees understand that it’s OK to try something different. Morale will improve, the pace of innovation will quicken, and employees will feel empowered to make positive changes.

2. Everyone has a voice.

Creativity knows no job title. Everyone, from the CEO to the new guy on the delivery route, has ideas. Get out of your office on a regular basis to ask a question: “What’s one thing you would do to improve our customer’s experience or make your job easier to do?” Then, stand back, listen and take notes.

3. Celebrate everyday innovation.

Starting with small successes often leads to achieving more lofty goals. Create a work environment where employees encourage each other to seek better ways to service customers, reduce costs, and improve efficiency. Every journey starts with a single step. Create an Innovation Board and post stories highlighting team members who are thinking creatively.

4. Be agile.

The kryptonite of innovation is red tape. Creating a culture of innovation means you may have to take some (calculated) risks. If you want to see innovation and creativity grind to a halt, bog down your employees with bureaucracy, procedures, and scheduled “innovation meetings”. Innovation likes speed, agility and spontaneity; if you want creative thinking, simply empower your team to try new things without a defined process – whenever the mood strikes.

5. Live it.

Set aside time for innovation. For example, we allow team members the opportunity to work on personal projects (related to our business, of course) for four hours per week. Those are company-paid hours, mind you. Many leading companies, like Google for instance, have adopted this practice with outstanding results. For Google, this personal project time birthed AdWords (a multi-billion dollar revenue stream); for Synapse, the result was substantial as well: a custom project management system that has saved more than $100,000 per year in administrative costs.

Remember, innovation is not limited to an industry, department or title. It’s a way of thinking, from the top down and the bottom up. Use heaping spoonfuls of the tactics above, stir in patience and encouragement, give it some time, and get ready to sit back and enjoy!

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