Innovation – you’re hired!

Tom Pellereau, an inventor from London, won this year’s The Apprentice, going to show that people with ideas (and not just the sales person types that usually win The Apprentice prize) are important for business. 

Now this shouldn’t come as a surprise when we know that without ideas there would be no products and services, and to be competitive, business needs to remain innovative.  And yet many companies seem to stifle creativity and discourage staff from being inventive.  For some, this comes in the form of telling staff exactly how they want the job to be done and penalising any signs of autonomy.  Others actively discourage staff from asking questions and posing solutions especially when they assume that idea generation is the preserve of management or the research & development team.  Repeating the mantra “this is the way we’ve always done things” can cause a business to stagnate.  And some organisations actually foster a culture where staff become so fearful of failure and ridicule that they won’t make suggestions on how to improve products or processes.  Yet such attitudes don’t make for good business.  Indeed, as Tim Harford’s recent book, Adapt explains, fear of failure paradoxically leads to greater and more dangerous failure.  In contrast, successful people and organisations, fail a lot, but when they do succeed, they do so in big ways.

To improve your chances of success consider how you can encourage staff to be more creative.  For example:

  • encourage networking and collaboration – it can help staff develop new perspectives and develop a more trusting culture.
  • build a happier work environment – people in genuinely positive moods are more creative and open to opportunities than those in negative moods.
  • support the development of self-efficacy –  because confidence in “I can” fosters the creative spirit.
  • be encouraging and supportive – people must feel comfortable when challenging the status quo, experimenting and generating new ideas without fear of judgement and criticism.
  • and as Harford explains in his enlightening stories – embrace dissent, permit tactical experimentation, and create safe havens for ideas to be tested without bringing the whole system crashing down. 

To explore how to develop a more innovative culture, email gill@unisonmedia.co.uk.  Now there’s an idea!

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