Innovation at Work: Building a Culture That Embraces Change

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The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible” – Arthur C. Clarke

The world we live in is shaped by technology, business concepts, and social solutions. Every new concept has been the result of the imagination of an individual or group of creative thinkers. If fresh, original designs and ideas inspire you, you might be wondering how to be more innovative. In this article, we define innovation at work and outline steps you can take to improve your problem-solving and creativity at work.

What Does Innovation at Work Mean?

The development of new ideas or the improvement of existing ideas is referred to as innovation. Innovation at work entails contributing ideas and solutions to workplace challenges or problems. Innovators recognise when there is a need for improvement and use logic, reason, and creativity to find solutions. They frequently design systems, collaborate, and create tools or products that benefit their environment or culture. They may work to increase productivity, revenue, or collaboration—and the results are often memorable and have an impact on change.

Innovative thinking refers to ideas developed to improve or refine existing work structures and techniques. Someone who is innovative at work proposes or contributes to the most recent developments within the company. Whether it’s devising a solution to a problem or proposing a method that could streamline current processes. Innovative employees understand that change is necessary for the company to improve and adapt to changing circumstances.

These enhancements are frequently memorable and have a positive impact on an employee’s reputation among colleagues and supervisors. Workplace innovation isn’t always about coming up with big, radical ideas. The most valuable innovations you can offer as an employee are sometimes the smallest and most practical on a daily basis. In many cases, innovating can have a greater long-term impact on the company.

Why is Innovation Important at Work?

Man holding piece of paper with idea written on it
There are many ways in which innovation can benefit you and your team at work

 

Here are five ways that innovative thinking benefits people and improves workplace environments:

Increases Motivation

Being an innovative thinker necessitates being proactive in one’s career. People with this trait enjoy challenges and seek solutions rather than focusing on problems. Maintaining a positive attitude and proactive habits allows people to be more engaged at work, which increases productivity and motivation.

Helps Your Personal Brand

Working to become an innovator at work enhances your professional persona and brand. Your personal brand reflects your overall workplace strengths and abilities, as well as your professional attitude and demeanour. Creating a memorable and consistent personal brand is an effective networking and career development tool.

Promotes Collaboration

Brainstorming ideas and having confidence in your problem-solving abilities are critical to your success as an innovator in your career. Speaking with your superiors or colleagues about your ideas often inspires others to act or be creative. It is likely to result in in-depth discussions, professional alliances, and collaborative efforts on projects or initiatives. Furthermore, when problem-solving and innovative thinking becomes part of your personal brand, people are more likely to seek your assistance or advice when they are assigned creative projects or assignments. All of this will promote creativity and innovation in the workplace.

Improves Professional Standing

Thinking creatively at work and seeking out innovative solutions to workplace challenges not only aids in the development of a person’s personal brand, but also in the definition of a person’s professional reputation. Resolving problems through strategy and creativity, as well as maintaining a proactive and positive mindset, are likely to help you gain recognition from your peers and superiors as a skilled and inventive individual. It may even help you improve your professional standing or be considered for a promotion or leadership position.

Company Recognition

Being the source of a company’s latest innovative offering is a great way to gain internal recognition. Whether you want to advance your career or improve your reputation, becoming known as one of the company’s innovators allows you to do both. This is especially useful if you work for a large corporation or in a competitive industry.

Workplace Skills Required for Innovation

Skills written on a notepad on a desk with stationary
Whilst innovation is a skill in itself, there are other skills needed to cultivate innovation

 

Many skills that can be used to demonstrate innovation at work are transferable from previous roles. These skills typically include the following:

Creativity

Being creative is essential in the development of new ideas, as well as in approaching existing challenges from new angles.

Problem-solving

You can expect to solve a variety of problems during the innovation process in order to make your final idea as appealing and effective as possible.

Critical Thinking

To be innovative, you must be able to think critically about your methods as well as reflect on and improve your project.

Risk-taking

Being a successful innovator requires having the confidence to take risks that few other employees or colleagues are willing to take.

Curiosity

Curiosity about what would happen if the company’s norms and existing processes were disrupted, challenged, or improved is a primary source of motivation for any innovator.

Stay curious written in scrabble tiles on a blue background
Constantly being curious means you are always on alert for new ideas

 

How Do You Demonstrate Innovation at Work?

Here are seven steps to take to become more innovative in your career:

1. Be Adaptable

The first step toward becoming innovative in your career is to cultivate an open-minded mindset. Coming up with new ideas or new systems for completing tasks is what innovation entails. Being too attached to the way things are done now may limit your creativity. Participating in newly implemented processes or attending a new work event or professional outing can help you practice being open to change. You can also change your mindset by telling yourself that change is good and that you can adapt to new situations.

2. Look for Positivity

Following the development of an open mindset, you should work to instil a sense of optimism in your personal and professional life. A positive attitude allows you to remain open to change and can help you be more confident in your ideas or decisions.

This mindset can also help you be more open to new ideas from colleagues or coworkers, and it is likely to encourage collaboration and team brainstorming. Connecting with colleagues or a mentor who has a cheerful or hopeful disposition, as well as making positive affirmations at the start of each day, can help you find this positivity both internally and externally.

3. Research Other Innovative Thinkers

The next step in learning how to think like an innovator is to research the lives and work of successful innovators. Make a list of five to ten influential people who motivate and inspire you. Consider those who have created tools or systems that make your life easier, or inventions that have altered the way people live.

You can learn about each of those people’s lives by reading biographies and autobiographies or watching documentaries. You might find inspiration, behaviours or character traits to emulate or details on how influential innovators deal with challenges in their careers or lives.

4. Participate in a Workshop

A dedicated learning and professional development session is an innovation workshop. They can last from hours to days and are designed to foster creative growth and encourage innovative thinking. Many employers, schools, and private organisations provide these types of training sessions and workshops, and participants frequently use them to gain exposure to new ideas, brainstorming strategies, technological advances, and like-minded professionals. You can check out this innovation at work economist event.

5. Broaden Your Professional Network

Sketch of a social network on a white notepad
Broadening your network shows you’re collaborating which shows innovation

 

Your professional network is a group of social and professional contacts to whom you can reach out for information on jobs, industry issues, learning opportunities, or advice. You can expand your professional network by using social media, attending workshops or events, enrolling in classes or educational programs, and connecting with coworkers and colleagues.

Expanding your professional network can give you access to new ideas, innovative technology, and activities or programs that will help you to be more creative and innovative in the workplace.

6. Bring Your Expertise to the Office

After committing to a positive and open mindset, connecting with like-minded professionals, and studying the work and behaviour of influential innovators, it’s time to apply what you’ve learned in your office or workplace. Consider organising a brainstorming session or approaching your boss or coworkers about forming a cohort or team to address and solve workplace problems.

7. Have Faith in Your Ideas

The last step toward becoming more innovative at work is to gain confidence in your ideas. Emulate the characteristics and characteristics of innovative thinkers that you discovered during your research, and brainstorm change ideas. If you notice areas for improvement, contact the appropriate person and express your concerns. If you believe you have a good idea, express it and take action to effect positive change.

How Do You Spark Innovation at Work?

So, as a leader, how to promote innovation in an organisation? Let’s take a look at some options.

Encourage an Open and Creative Work Environment

Some companies provide snacks, games, and “time off” during work hours to encourage creativity. Google gives developers one full day per week to work on their own projects. This has resulted in useful services such as Google News, demonstrating that the approach works. You may not be able to provide that much freedom, but you can promote communication, a positive attitude, and a low-stress environment.

All of these factors can contribute to increased mental flexibility and free thought, which leads to profitable innovation. Team icebreaker activities such as retreats can also be effective, as long as they are not competitive or stressful.

Motivate Your Group

Businesswoman motivating her team members in a meeting
As a leader, you can spark innovation by motivating your team with fun activities and challenges

 

People will be kept on their toes if they receive positive reinforcement in the form of rewards, bonuses, special privileges, comp time, and prizes. Not everyone will participate, but many will if they see the benefits of their efforts. You can brainstorm some innovative ideas for work from home employees like a virtual scavenger hunt or virtual team trivia. Rewarding innovation in the workplace encourages it to become a more common occurrence.

Promote Diversity

A diverse range of working styles thought processes, and perspectives are critical for avoiding groupthink, which occurs when a homogenised team loses the ability to see obvious solutions to outsiders. Find ways to promote conversation and the sharing of ideas rather than trying to stop them from growing. Bring teams together to share ideas and break down information silos. Invite outside speakers to provide alternative viewpoints.

Provide the Proper Tools

Carpenters require a variety of tools in addition to hammers, including saws, levels, planes, drills, and mitre boxes. Ensure that your employees have access to the software, computers, training, and other resources they require.

Create Innovation Teams

Create teams with members who have different working styles, experiences, and skill sets, and whose primary goal is to collaborate to innovate. Give this team an innovation at work slogan like:

Innovation is the key to everything the future can be.”

This has been done as a full-time position or one or two days per week. Although some argue that such teams lose their spontaneity, solid communal thought, bantering, and brainstorming can result in unexpected innovations.

Accept Opportunities for Co-creation and Open Innovation

When it comes to innovation, don’t be afraid to involve your customers as well. After all, your ardent supporters are the most likely to have great ideas for new products and services, especially if they use your services and products on a daily basis.

Lightbulb image created from puzzle pieces on yellow background
Innovation can come from anywhere so involving your customers will give you more opportunities

 

Starbucks, for example, ran its “My Starbucks Idea” portal for a decade from 2007 to 2017, receiving over 150,000 suggestions from loyal Starbucks customers.

This resulted not only in top-selling Starbucks products like Hazelnut Macchiatos and pumpkin spice lattes but also in the opportunity for Starbucks to build a valuable community of superfans for market research purposes.

Don’t Penalise

To be truly innovative, you must be willing to fail. That’s just part of the creative process because you fail more often than you succeed. Why should your team members try if they are afraid of being punished if their initiatives fail? Always have a suggestion box available so that employees can contribute anonymously. Even in a public setting, some people prefer confidentiality.

Think Openly

An open mindset is essential for becoming innovative at work. An open mindset allows you to consider ideas and theories that are outside of what your employer expects of you or what you’ve been taught. Because innovation necessitates looking beyond the established status quo, it is critical that you learn to think openly and creatively.

Extend Your Network

Any successful innovator has a large network of connections that reflect their goals and vision. Your network is made up of people from your personal and professional circles to whom you can turn for advice, support, motivation, and additional collaborative opportunities. Expanding your existing network of contacts increases your access to technology, ideas, and knowledge. The more people you can talk to about your innovation, the more resources will be available to make it a reality.

Examples of Common Workplace Innovation

Here are some common examples of creativity and innovation in the workplace that you may want to emulate or adapt:

  • Developing a new digital platform to improve your company’s online processes or functions.
  • Encouraging your company’s collaboration with another complementary company.
  • Designing a product that prioritises sustainability in your company’s actions.
  • Proposing local community collaborations to increase brand awareness among core audiences.
  • Marketing a product in an unusual or appealing way in order to increase sales.
  • Connecting with younger generations to gain new perspectives and expand your audience reach.
  • Encouraging coworkers to improve internal morale and productivity.
  • Utilising technology and social media to reposition the company as an appealing, modern option.
  • Streamlining current processes to complete tasks more efficiently and consistently
    involving customers in the development of new products or services in order to meet consumer needs.
  • Combining two or more existing elements to improve company options.
Birdseye view of a marketing team working on project
These are just a few ways in which you can introduce innovation into your workplace

 

Conclusion

As a final thought, remember that committing to innovation is a brave thing to do. Your actions will likely inspire others on your team to join. There will be days when it feels like too much to take on, but drum up your inner warrior and keep going. And remember that persistence beats resistance.

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