There are three fundamentals that are practical starting points to improve your chances of stimulating and sustaining innovation where it matters most, with your people. The first is leading innovation. As leaders, we have to make innovation a focus of our strategic agendas, right up there with budgeting and forecasting. Sometimes, this will take resources and attention away from achieving some of your short term goals.
But it will pay dividends in the long run. Top three to five innovators, remember? This can be done by adding innovation to formal agendas for discussion, setting performance metrics and targets for innovation, just like you do for anything else. Remember, to your employees, your priorities don't come from what you say they are, they come from the reporting and the metrics that you require. That gives them the focus to direct their energies.
The second step is designing innovation networks. Now, we all know how networks work. Networks generate a cycle of innovation. As a leader, you can also create a network of employees who are encouraged to generate new and bigger ideas, help connect them. Recognize them for their contributions, and provide technology support for their networking.
The third is cultures of trust. Turns out that many employees believe that their organization already has the right amount of talent. But that their corporate culture inhibits them from innovating. So newsflash, good employees don't want to let you down. Which means that you have to let them know that it's okay to try new things. Even if they might fail at those things. Cultures of trust are so important, and a great way to build them is by implementing a fail is safe attitude.
By definition, that safety has to come from the top. Many people agree that allowing folks to learn from their mistakes is important. But according to the same study, only 23% of employees actually believe that their organizations encouraged them to fail and learn.
So take the time to think about it. What side of that metric do you think you are on as a leader? Do you make failing and innovating safe? Never forget, culture is one of the strongest resources that you have at your disposal, much like your human, technological, or financial resources. Of course, you shouldn't ignore it. Learn to harness it, and go forth and be great every day.