Are You Creating a Culture of Innovation or Follow the Leader?

Establishing a culture of innovation, a popular phrase these days, is something many companies these days are interested in doing. After all, who doesn’t want to create a climate similar to Apple, where staffers feel empowered to change the world with their ideas? But how do you get people to think different, to use an Apple-ism and yet fulfill your business vision? Here are some tips:

Ask for ideas, listen to them, and enact the great ones

Some executives are willing to ask for ideas from their staff, but they never use them, and just ask for the ideas to make it look like they’re listening. But you never know where the next great idea will come from. McDonald’s franchisee Jim Delligatti spent two years trying to convince corporate ideas that his sandwich idea would fly before the company agreed to it. Then the Big Mac, Delligatti’s baby, became the most popular hamburger ever. If the franchise had ignored his idea, the fast food chain may never have become so popular.

When it comes to your ideas, get opinions on what to do – and what not to do

Sometimes management does a follow the leader thing, when staff may be able to easily show them that the leader is taking a wrong path. Something that may seem like a great idea to you may be shot down by your staff. Sure, some of your employees may be chronic complainers who don’t like change, but they could have good points. For example, if you have bought a new content management system, make sure that your staff tests it before it goes like. You could be surprised at how many bugs the people who will be using it may find in it.

Set aside some time to think on new things

Some companies allow their staffers X amount of time a week just to think about possible innovations. If you give your staff time to breathe, and to think, and to come up with big-picture as well as small-picture ideas, they may surprise you with your ideas.

Give your staff autonomy

Sometimes you have to allow your employees the freedom to make their own choices, even if it might mean that they may fail at first. You may find, though, that such freedom to fail could allow them the confidence they need to succeed at innovation.

Don’t just hire clones of yourself

Some executives may end up hiring too many “mini-me’s” for their staff, picking people who remind them of themselves. However, they should also try to hire people who are different personalities, and who bring a different skill set to the table. You are more likely to build a culture of innovation with those who see the world differently from you, than with those who play follow the leader.

Lisa Swan writes for a variety of business sites including MeredithHaberfeld.com.

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