Innovation Doesn’t Come On Demand, It Comes by Invitation Only

john_kotterBy John Kotter

There are practical, immediate ways to create a culture of innovation in your organization — ones that don’t just create an atmosphere of “fun,” but that actively engage employees in the innovation process. Here are three tips for getting the ball rolling:

  1. Share the company secrets. One way to create trust and enable innovation is ensure that employees are “in the know.” Ensuring employees have a clear understanding of the current metrics affecting the business — the strengths and weaknesses, the most tightly-held secrets to the company — makes them more empowered and productive.
  2. Don’t tell them they “have to.” Help them want to. Lead with a light hand. Ask questions instead of driving decisions. Reward those that speak up by giving them the power to follow their idea through. The example will only encourage others to voice their ideas. When teams begin to trust that they are in control, they’ll take the lead, and you may be amazed at what they come up with.
  3. Give explicit permission to take risks. Give employees the freedom to explore their ideas to see where they lead. In a culture where each work hour has to account for progress, employees are inherently prone to avoid risks. Ensure that the lessons from failures are as valued as the lessons learned from successes, and you’ll send the message that taking risks is okay. At Kotter International, one of our clients allowed their transportation repair team to attempt a re-organization of their repair depot. As a result, they’ve seen huge improvements in efficiency and a major decrease in employee injuries.
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