Who doesn’t love innovation? Innovative organizations have a sharper competitive edge, are more resilient in times of crisis, and are more attractive as employers. But all too often, innovation is nothing more than a buzz word. Let’s take a look at the most common blocks to innovation, and how to clear them out with a streamlined system for innovation management.
Moving innovation from idea to practice
While many organizations claim to prioritize innovation, they don’t always have the structure necessary to support. So, they leave innovation on individual contributors’ shoulders. Or they wait for the ideas to flow, without giving thought to how they’ll fit into wider company goals.
Innovation as an organizational practice requires an innovation management system, which must include a company-wide way to collect, process, and store ideas so they can be reviewed and acted upon. Without this type of system, ideas get lost, creativity isn’t leveraged, and teams lose motivation to contribute.
So, how can you turn “Innovation” from a buzzword to a living, breathing concept with a defined working process and the ability to improve outcomes? Understand what blocks innovation, and incorporate a streamlined system to prioritize and protect creative thinking.
Innovation Block 1: Sharing insights isn’t encouraged
In an average company, top management is aware only of 4 percent of the organisation’s problems. Even middle management has knowledge only of mere 9 percent.
Why is that?
In many organizations, ideas and insights aren’t systematically collected from front-line employees. But front-line employees are the ones who have direct access to clients’ problems, and can often see the best solutions. Missing their insights can seriously stifle innovation.
Employees at every level should feel their ideas matter and that solving problems is part of their job. Lead by example and highlight the premise that there are no good and bad ideas. Put the priority on sharing and capturing ideas as the first steps to unblock innovation.
Innovation Block 2: No system to gather ideas
When the ground premise is set — innovation and ideas are welcome and appreciated – you need to follow up with practical support. Otherwise, the real message is words without follow-up, which leads to more distrust and lowered motivation to participate. To eliminate the second block to innovation, create a system that makes sharing ideas as easy as possible.
“You can’t expect them to think outside the box if they don’t know what the box is. And there’s always a box, but often it’s bigger and shaped differently than we might imagine.”
-Innovation expert Roel de Vries
Skip the catch-all suggestion box and set up a structured suggestion channel to guide your team through the process of leaving qualified suggestions. Limiting choices and asking for specific input actually encourages creativity. A guided channel helps team members learn how to structure their ideas better. Plus, a channel everyone can access encourages contribution across all levels, and facilitates collaboration throughout the process.
- Focus the input by asking specific questions.
- Make certain fields mandatory.
- Combine multi-choice custom fields with free text forms to allow for more creative ideas!
- Track the status of each contributed idea to create accountability and motivation.
Innovation Block 3: Poor or missing communication
A common scenario: a team member goes through the process of sharing an idea, only to have it disappear into the void. It’s a frustrating situation for employees who feel their suggestions aren’t bearing fruit. It’s also a quick way to kill motivation for sharing more ideas. People want to be heard, and a well-designed innovation system must include feedback and ongoing communication.
Of course, not all the ideas will be picked up and worked on. Some ideas are too costly, not aligned with strategy, or the timing is simply bad.
The key is communication: ensure that people who submit ideas can follow their progress and get feedback on whether an idea is advanced or archived. Not only does feedback help team members feel heard and acknowledged, it also helps train them on better “idea-building.” When they learn why a certain idea was not qualified at a specific time, they can take that knowledge into future suggestions.
Organize follow-up via a shared calendar which allows people to see their ideas have been reviewed. The comment field allows the responsible department to add notes, ask for clarification, and leave additional information, whenever relevant.
Progress tracking also facilitates communication within and between teams involved in the process. This type of response and discussion encourages transparency and strengthens motivation to submit ideas in the future.
Innovation Block 4: Lack of organization
Not all ideas are great at all times. Sometimes a brilliant suggestion comes through, but the resources aren’t available. You don’t want to lose the idea, but you can’t move it forward at the moment.
What to do?
In many organizations, that would be the end of it: the idea gets buried in the Z binder and the papers end up in recycling two years later.
Time wasted, frustration, lack of motivation: all because the system didn’t allow us to categorize and store the ideas in an organized, retrievable way. An organized, searchable system ensures good ideas don’t go missing, so they can be used when the time is right. Tagging and tracking allow the team in charge of the ideas to make it a habit to always check for past ideas before asking for new ones. Filtering functionality makes it easy to find ideas according to status, topic, department, or any other context you include in the innovation management system.
Set up an Innovation Management System
If your team doesn’t have a proper innovation management system yet, the most important step is to get started. Set up a system for a small project, for instance, and test it out before rolling it out company-wide. That’s innovation in action!
Try out some of our Live Demos to see how Teamup features work. They’ll give you a good starting point that can be customized for your team and organization.