The topic of innovation within an organization conjures up images of people creating new products or services, or possibly redesigning existing ones to make things better — new and improved. At the heart of innovation is the culture of the organization and the people who work there.
Innovating starts with the power of human thought. Ideas, inspiration and creativity all come from humans, not machines. The greatest technology cannot reproduce what the human mind can do. In fact, technology is the product of human innovation. The ability to think, dream, imagine and inspire all come from human thought. Tapping into human thought and the human potential is the essence of being innovative.
A big challenge in creating an innovative environment is that most organizations are results driven. The emphasis is on “doing” rather than “thinking.” Some organizations may even unknowingly be discouraging innovation through disempowerment. Employees are often rewarded based on productivity and quantitative measures.
Paradoxically, companies say they want their employees to “think outside the box,” but this is difficult to do when time and greater efficiencies are of utmost importance. Being able to innovate, create and develop new products and services takes time. Sometimes, this is designated to only certain departments, which eliminates many others from contributing their ideas.
Unless it is built into their job description or designated as a project, most workers do not have downtime to sit and think and conjure up better ways to do their jobs. When time to think becomes scarce, the thinking begins to erode, employees disengage and come to work “just to do their jobs.” They rarely feel a part of the whole.
Environment makes a difference
Essential psychological components of innovation in organizations include:
1. Safety and trust in working relationships
2. Fostering the time and freedom to think, dream and inspire
3. Engaging, empowering and rewarding employees to innovate
4. Willingness to take risks
5. Emphasis on continuous improvement
A primary ingredient in the culture of a healthy and vibrant organization is to have employees that collaborate and share willingly with others, for the greater good of the company rather than for their own self-serving reasons. This requires having trust in leadership and co-workers, and having a sense of safety in being able to share and collaborate.