Do you want to encourage innovation among your team or employees to boost productivity? If YES, here’s how to drive creativity and innovation in the workplace.

Creativity and innovation are two words that go hand and hand in the work place. A lot of people tend to rope creativity and innovation together as the same thing, while reasoning that creativity and innovation are all about bringing out new things. We have discovered this not to be true from research.

Creativity and innovation though they look to be similar on a lot of fronts, but there is a clear and important distinction between them. It is especially critical for businesses to understand this distinction before instituting a new organization-wide innovation initiative.

What is Creativity?

Creativity is the process of coming up with something that did not exist before. It is generally synonymous with imagination, risk taking, inventiveness etc.

Creativity is most often defined as the ability of the mind to conceptualize new, unusual or unique ideas, and to see the connection between these random or unrelated ideas. It is important to note that creativity is a mental ability anyone is capable of. It is not reserved for only special individuals who for instance can paint, sculpt or craft.

What is Innovation?

Innovation on the other hand involves implementing new ideas, improving existing service or creating a dynamic new product. It is the process that transforms those forward-looking ideas into real world products, services, or processes of enhanced value.

The result of such a transformation can be incremental and evolutionary on the sector which it is targeted at. This then means that innovation means executing new ideas to create value, or the process of idea management.That is, it involves taking action. So creativity without innovation equals to a loss of opportunity. The great ideas will go nowhere.

The Relationship Between Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship

There is a saying that companies are not innovative, rather people are innovative. Innovation is however not just the responsibility of one employee; it is the responsibility of the entire organization. Innovation is not something that a company can purchase off the market. It has to be honed and cultivated for it to prosper and flourish in the work place.

These days, innovation sets a business apart from others by giving it a competitive advantage. Businesses develop as a result of the creativity or innovativeness of one person or a group of persons where they provide products or services that are new or a modification of things in existence. But with time, most business tends to lose this their innovative nature and become satisfied with the status quo. Instead taking an offensive approach and moving forward, they just stick to a defensive position.

10 Ways Innovation Benefits your Business Organization

The ability to create something totally different from what others have, have been the launching pad of a lot of great businesses today; think of Apple and the iPhone. This goes to show that innovative organizations stand a better chance in the business world. The following ways are how innovation benefits organizations.

  1. Competitive advantage

It is a fact that the companies that have remained on top over the long haul are those who are the most creative and innovative. These organizations don’t copy what others do; instead, they make use of innovative ideas from others as a spring board to come up with a unique application, product, or service for themselves. They focus on bringing out new products into the market, or devising new ways of carrying out a service.

With these innovations, the organizations tend to monopolize the market for the time being, thus attracting more customers than others. This goes to show that innovation gives an organization competitive advantage over other companies in similar product or service line.

  1. Economic viability

When business executives and economists think about whether developing an innovation will be worthwhile, they tend to focus on the economic value of the outcome of the innovation process. This is because great innovations sell, and they could be the difference between a company flying high or fading off.

Since innovation centrally involves problem solving, and customers would only buy into a product that solves some problems for them, so this then translates to increased income and profitability for the organization.

  1. Improved productivity

Companies are always looking for ways to reduce overhead costs, and as such a lot of innovations are centered on reducing production costs while improving productivity. Thus, being innovative helps a company to improve the production capacity and/or flexibility of the business in order to enable it exploit economies of scale.

  1. Produce Better quality products

Innovation enables a company to produce better quality products. Better quality products and services are more likely to meet customer needs. Assuming that they are effectively marketed, they should result in higher sales and profits for the organization.

  1. Building new product range

It is known fact that most innovations result from modifying existing products or services. A business with a single product or limited product range would almost certainly benefit from innovation, and putting creativity and innovation into action always results to a new product range. A broader product range provides an opportunity for higher sales and profits.

  1. Become environmentally friendly

Innovation might enable a business to reduce it carbon emissions, produce less waste or perhaps comply with changing product or environmental legislation. Changes in laws often force businesses to innovate when they might not otherwise do so.

  1. Increased value added

Effective innovation is a great way to establish a unique selling proposition (USP) for a product. A unique selling proposition would enable customers pay whatever amount they are told, and it is also how a business differentiates itself from competitors.

  1. Improved staff retention and motivation

This may not be an obvious benefit, but it is often very significant. Potential good quality recruits are often drawn to a business with a reputation for innovation. Innovative businesses have a reputation for being inspiring places to work.

  1. Brand Recognition

Because they have products that set them apart from others, innovative companies generally do not need to do an excess amount of advertising or branding to capture their target market. Instead, their name alone carries considerable weight in their industry and people cannot wait for their products to hit the market.

Their name recognition generally sets them apart from other companies in the market, which means that they need to do very little to promote their products. Companies like Google, Apple, Nike, Fed ex etc are currently enjoying this advantage.

  1. Industry leaders

The creativity exhibited by innovative companies often puts them in positions of leadership within their respective industries. Apple, for example, regularly makes the news for its latest innovations which generally sets the bar for other similar products that are later developed by other companies trying to piggyback off of their success. By the time these companies finally manage to catch up, Apple and other companies taking a leadership role have created another innovative product to once again lead the way.

5 Ways Innovation Helps the Economy on a Wider Scale

  1. It creates employment opportunities

The success of a country is mostly measured by its employment capacity. A country struggling to provide employment opportunities for its citizens is not seen in a good economic light. On a large scale, innovation holds the power to create entire industries.

Consider bio-medical and alternative energy and other such related industries. Jobs are being created in response to the growing demand for the innovations from these new and fast growing industries. If it weren’t for the innovations that created these industries, these jobs would not exist today. So, innovation helps a country provide employment for her citizens.

  1. Improves the economy

It is a fact that innovation is the hidden force that keeps every country’s economy moving in the right direction. With an uncertain global economy, bringing out innovative products and services to market to others is the only way a country can boost its economic fortunes.

Economists have calculated that approximately 50% of U.S. annual GDP growth is attributed to increases in innovation. America’s genius for innovation and entrepreneurial drive is well known to be the primary reason for America’s economic preeminence.

  1. Addressing Environmental challenges

It is a fact that environmental challenges and pollution affects the economy of any country as they would spend valuable resources in mitigating pollution and treating diseases and infections that result from pollution. Innovation is increasingly perceived as crucial for tackling environmental challenges like limiting climate change, global greenhouse gas emissions and maintaining biodiversity. Innovation can contribute to addressing environmental challenges through the introduction of new technologies and non-technological innovations.

  1. Alleviate Social challenges

Innovation can help alleviate social challenges that encompass health and demographic challenges, social exclusion and inequalities, among others. As an example, innovation can help elderly individuals remain healthier, live independently and longer, and counteract the diminishing of physical capabilities that become more prevalent with age.

  1. Improved health care

Healthy citizens have been equated to a healthy economy, because it is only when people are healthy and strong that they can work. Innovation provides more personal, predictive and preventive health care products that improve the quality of human health.

You see, finding innovative ideas is probably closer than most people think. Every department you interact with in an organization has challenges that they are facing which they will need to rise up and solve. It could be customer service, legal, project management, creativity or finance.

By building close relationships, you will start to learn real quickly what their pain points are and hopefully you would be able to come up with some really great ideas on how to kick start that internal innovation. Here are a few tips that can help to encourage innovation in the work place.

12 Sure Ways to Drive Creativity & Innovation in the Workplace

1. Experiment with new ideas

Albert Einstein once said that we cannot solve our problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. This is very true especially when you want to drive and encourage innovation. Companies and individuals have to try something new in order to be innovative and creative.

The company must let its staff know that they need and are open to innovations. Some companies tend to encourage this by modifying the work place in such a way that will encourage creativity. This could involve doing away with cubicles which can tend to stifle creativity in individuals.

Also you have to challenge the traditional way of thinking. Encourage your staff to think outside the box and to see things from a new perspective.

2. Give staff time to work out ideas

Innovation is a process that usually takes a lot of time to occur, however, a lot of employees are constantly being pressured to innovate. Although piling pressure on workers to be innovative may seem to be realistic from an employer’s point of view, but it hardly ever brings out the best in the staff in the long run.

Most companies are now allowing their employees to work on projects that they want. Also, a lot of companies are embracing innovation days, hackathon sessions or just simply giving the employees an amount of time to work of projects that excite them as a means of driving and encouraging innovation in the work place.

For example, Google allows its employees to use about 20 percent of their time to work on developing ideas they may have an impact on the company and to also work on other personal projects.

FedEx on the other hand encourages its staff to take paid off days (known as FedEx days) to work on any problem that is related to the company they may have. At the end of the FedEx day, they are expected to have been able to come up with something that can be of benefit to the company.

3. Invest in idea implementation

All the good ideas in the world are of no use unless they are implemented. To further encourage innovation in the work place, the company has to not only create a culture that supports the generation of new innovations, it has to also insure that these ideas are implemented in a timely fashion.

4. Reward innovation

The best way to show your employees that their innovations matter and are needed is to reward employees for their efforts. The reward can be in form of money or other types of incentives which have the power to boost the morale of the staff that made the achievement. This could be by way of flexible work hours, a free gift, publicizing the achievement, writing a personal thank you note, a medal or even the chance to head a project of their choice.

5. Purge the fear of failure

In any work place, if the members of staff are constantly worried that they may lose their job, then they will hardly ever take the risk that is required to generate new innovations which have a chance at either being a success or a failure.

Companies should come to realize that failure is part of the innovation process and thus, the only way to overcome it is to constantly try to get things right. Ideas should not be evaluated in the light of whether they are good or bad. Also, you have to be careful so as not to be too critical when things go wrong.

In addition, you should calm the effects of naysayers because no one wants to bring forth an idea and be instantly shut down or even worse, laughed at. Even if someone makes a suggestion that is seemingly wrong, you should thank the person for their creativity.

6. Boost organizational commitment

It is pertinent that members of staff know and understand the organization’s vision and mission for an innovation driven enterprise so as to be on the same page with the firm. If your employees do not feel connected to your company, they will most likely not care and as such they will not feel the need to put in their best in the innovation process. Once the individuals in the organization are in line with what the organization has in mind, they will work hand in hand to achieve their common goals.

7. Mix things up

Changing some aspects of the working environment can lead to new ideas. For example, changing the location of the office space or even working outside the office can lead to employees gaining new perspectives and insight. Also, changing jobs, roles and assignment can change the way things have always been done.

For example, Vodafone spent over 2.3 million euros to just renovate its headquarters in Dublin. They did away with cubicles, private offices, and meeting rooms as part of a new work strategy. Employees are now free to choose to stay wherever they want to. No seat is reserved for anyone even for top level employees. Also, central locations that serve as common meeting grounds for staff were established and offices that were seen as power symbols were removed.

8. Simplify the suggestion process

In some work places, to offer suggestions can be quite a difficult task. The manager and other decision makers are usually behind closed door that are rarely accessible and also meeting tend to be one sided. This gives the employees the vibe that their inputs are not needed. Employees have to be encouraged to make their suggestion by having an open door policy, having two-way meetings and even installing the good old fashion suggestion box.

9. Dial down the competition

Even though a dose of healthy competition is good to have in a work place, excessive competition can be counterproductive. Stiff completion has a way of putting the incentive or reward in the front burner while relegating the most important thing which is to drive innovation. At times, employees may keep ideas to themselves because they think that they will be stolen. You can counter this by embracing collaboration so that people will work together for the common goal of the organization.

10. Prevent burnout

A constantly stressed employee will only get basic assignments done at best. Have programs in place that are of the right work-life balance. Reduce workload by directing it to other members of staff who are less busy and also by hiring temporary help in peak periods.

11. Set measurable goals

Much like marketing, all of innovation comes down to understanding your consumer and doing experiments to understand if the thing you created is going to resonate with them. The organization should endeavor to set goals that are not so vague that the employee would not even know how to go about tackling them. Therefore, there should be benchmarks that will be set so as to help the organization draw the finish line for its goals.

12. Leverage an outside partner

When it makes sense, it is advisable to leverage on the help of an outside partner. An innovation team may be likely made up of strategists and researchers who are really focused on the consumer experience and this is great. Most innovation departments can’t handle more than one or two major ideas at a time because of limited resources.

Being able to work with an external partner like an agency or a development house who is able to execute the idea you have already drafted its concept is going to be really important. Imagine if you had 3 or 4 projects in various stages of prototyping, developing or design; they could move at a remarkably fast past because you have other partners who are working to help you achieve your goals.

In conclusion, an organization should upgrade the knowledge of its employees so as to equip them with the necessary tools to be creative and innovative.