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How to build a culture of innovation

Innovation will grow your company faster than anything. However, innovation won’t generate profits unless it’s integral to your company culture. Here are six ways to ensure that your company culture fosters an environment where innovation can thrive.

1. Start at the top.
Creating a culture of innovation starts at the top. Leaders need to broadly communicate throughout the organization that innovation is a top priority. Leaders also need to ensure that their employees recognize the “values” that are key to innovation. For example, humility is foundational to driving innovation; employees need to have the humility to recognize when there are better ways to do things or when other people have better answers to questions. Teamwork is another value, as innovation often takes a team effort. Another value is open communication; people will clam up if a someone with authority pounces on their ideas or ignores their suggestions for improvement.

2. Get all hands on deck.
Since every facet of your business can be improved upon, every person in your company must invest time and effort in its improvement. Ask every person to think about how the company could improve a few areas of the business and submit ideas for improvement.

3. Go for quantity versus quality.
When your company is trying to innovate, it’s better to come up with 1,000 ideas that are mediocre than generate a handful of excellent ideas. Research shows that having a high quantity of ideas will bring about high quality ideas. That’s because ideas tend to generate other ideas, which then lead to the most valuable ideas.

4. Communicate success to the team.
When you encourage employees to look for opportunities for improvement or come up with solutions to problems, it changes their habits and how they think. To get those habits to stick, give your employees feedback on their ideas — especially when those ideas are successful. Employees need to hear how their ideas and innovation efforts have led to positive outcomes. Provide specifics when reporting on the changes and the results.

5. Give specific and universal rewards.
When employees are recognized and incentivized for their good behavior, that behavior becomes habitual. Therefore, when your employees recommend ideas that positively impact profits, reward them with something significant. Similarly, when a team makes contributions that lead to profitable innovation, share the rewards — including monetary ones — with the team. Innovation pays for itself.

6. Keep the innovation loop going.
It takes work to lead and manage innovation. Therefore, when times are good, it’s tempting to rest and ride out your innovation successes. However, innovation shouldn’t be something you do in spurts. It’s a process that should continue on an ongoing basis at all levels of the organization. Like a never-ending loop, make it constant and consistent.

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