A business that stifles innovation is unlikely to succeed long-term. Change and progress are the names of the game in our capitalist society. Unfortunately, the vast majority of companies are discouraging innovation in subtle ways. Below, our collaborator and entrepreneur Ryan Rock of Ankeny, Iowa, owner of Empire AG, identifies some of the most common ways businesses stifle innovation, often without even knowing it.
The typical workplace is structured to the point that there is little time for freedom of thought. If your sole focus is producing as many products as possible or providing the maximum number of services in the limited hours of the workday, your team will not have the time necessary to flex their creative intellectual muscle. In other words, it is prudent to give your team members some unstructured time to reflect on current operating procedures, ponder new ideas, and test out suggestions for innovation.
Though shifting the focus slightly away from maximizing productivity will take a small bite out of the bottom line in the short-term, it has the potential to pay massive dividends in the long-term. Do your employees and your business a favor by dedicating some time to brainstorming new ideas, and your company will grow that much faster. The innovation stemming from such a brainstorming session might be enough to give your company a competitive edge that keeps your doors open for years or even decades into the future.
Innovation is one part of brainstorming and two parts of the implementation. If your team does not have the tools, guidance, or time to implement potentially beneficial changes/improvements, they will question if there is any sense in attempting to innovate in the first place. Those who work hard to innovate will eventually stop trying if their suggested improvements do not see the light of day. Every company needs an innovation pipeline in place to put ideas into action.
Clarify the implementation plan of suggested ideas, and your team will jump at the opportunity to innovate rather than rest on their laurels or assume any innovation suggestions will be immediately shot down from above. Fail to provide your team with a way to transfer ideas into action, and it is only a matter of time until they stop thinking creatively or completely jump ship in favor of a new employer.
Those who work in research and development (R&D) are usually handsomely compensated, as their job is quite challenging. However, your organization likely has plenty of creative minds outside of the R&D department. Do not restrict innovation strictly to those who are accomplished researchers, developers, inventors, etc. Limiting creative thinking to a small group of workers stifles innovation while simultaneously convincing non-R&D workers that their only contribution is in the form of enhanced productivity.
Ryan Rock suggests positioning “idea boxes” in the hallways where employees can submit suggestions for new products, services, or operating procedures anonymously. Company leaders should have an open-door policy that permits any employee of the organization to walk in or schedule an appointment to float out a creative idea for an executive or manager’s review.