Busting Out of the Same-Old-Same-Old: 3 Ways to Push Innovative Risk-Taking

Aug 12, 2013 Posted by

innovation“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.” If only more companies could practice what the late great Peter Drucker famously preached.

Most people, of course, resist change. It requires us to stretch our minds, test our skills and open ourselves up for failure. But ask the leaders of any thriving business what is the secret of their companies success and they’ll tell you: innovation. They recreate their businesses constantly, never shying away from the risks necessary to keep evolving and growing.

These leaders have also found ways to overcome their employees’ inherent fear of taking risks, and instill a sense of innovation throughout the organization. Here are three ways they turn innovation into a powerful tool for growth and performance.

Explain the Big Picture

Employees need to understand both the need and value of innovation. To create a friendlier environment for employee innovation, consider adding more details, greater information and a more complete strategy and vision. Seeing a roadmap creates greater safety for employees to take more calculated risks and innovate in very particular areas. Employees can better associate cause and effect when they see the big picture.

Make Innovation a Company Value

Virtually every organizations claims to be innovative; they say it because their consultants and today’s thought leaders recommend this. But for it to be practical, it has to come off the vision statement and into life. Change every employee’s job to include regular idea submissions for improvements, efficiencies or enhancements in services for customers. Celebrate great ideas. Celebrate great effort. Respond to all ideas submitted. Move innovation and ideas into the daily dialog, emails, company communication and CEO-speak.

One of my clients has a PIP — Performance Improvement Plan — that openly solicits ideas, shares which ideas seem like winners and celebrates all out-of-the-box thinking. Innovation and big-idea thinking aren’t just part of a company’s formal values. It’s written on the faces of every employee, every day.

Train Employees to Push the Limits

Let’s face it: initiatives that generate average and predictable ideas are really not innovation. The goal is to move past the conventional — past the same-old, same-old — in favor of new ideas, new thinking and expanded opportunities. Make it safe for employees to suggest extreme ideas; publicly applaud the non-conventional so that limits are erased. An organization I know has a “Way Out of the Box” program. They offer education to help their employees learn how to brainstorm more effectively and have created a “Way Out of the Box” idea submission center. The most out-of-the-box ideas are publicly applauded even if they are not selected. Big is expected. Small is moved to large through training and coaching.

Think Big should be the message to all employees, all of the time. In a workplace and economy that is dynamic, changing and competitive, it is impossible for management to be the only innovators. Innovation truly belongs to all employees. Employees are the eyes and the ears of the organization, connecting with each other, customers, suppliers and the outside world. To see possibilities, opportunities and potential, employees have to feel safe to push the limits, fight the fear of change and see that the organization as an entity is committed to innovation.