In the modern world with rapidly changing technology and stiff competition companies are more and more relying on their innovation to stay ahead of the competition. This poses a big question for them, what is Innovation and how can they be more innovative? Through this blog I will explore this and possible methods to improve innovation.
What is Innovation?
Innovation can be defined as:
“Innovation is the renewing, changing or creating of more effective processes, products, or ways of doing things”.
Using the definition for innovation three key attributes can be extracted and the best in innovation comes where the attributes collide with each other.
To stimulate innovation, we need to be able to create an environment that values and encourages these three attributes, but how?
“Creativity is the use of imagination or original ideas to create something new”
Creativity happens through thinking of new ideas, which means we need to have an environment that aid employees in their thinking. To stimulate creativity and imagination people need different sorts of stimulation on a regular basis, this can be achieved through visually different zones, art that leaves their message up to the persons opinion, place where someone can relax, switch off and day dream, past present and future experiences, and various other methods. Another key trigger to creativity is to enjoy what you do and where you are, which is the age old saying that “if you enjoy what you do are you actually working?”.
Another key area with change is the will to try something new even if this means making a mistake. To frequently at school and at work people are penalised for making a mistake. How will we know if something is the right way until we have made a mistake. Sir James Dyson, British inventor and founder of the Dyson Company is a firm believer in mistakes, and in fact when he created the first revolutionary Dual Cyclone vacuum cleaner he spent 15 years creating 5126 version that failed before he made the one that worked. This resulted in a multibillion pound pay off (Goodman, 2012). We need to create a risk free work and school environment where everyone does not think twice about making mistakes.
A very large part of innovation is renewing your skills. In many professional bodies and organisations “Continuous Professional Development” is a hot topic. It involves a member committing to learning new things and re enforcing existing skills. The method of learning and renewing can be carried out in several ways like: Training courses, reading, talks, learning from others, watching, and doing.
With Innovation you have to ask yourself the question, am I going to be able to be innovative and solve problems if I don’t know of any other methods or ways?” Sometimes something you learn by reading about it in one area can be revolutionary in another. For example, something you read in a gardening magazine when you were on holiday in Alaska, might trigger an idea that leads to an innovative solution when you are working on a wind turbine in Germany years later.
Employees should be encouraged to undertake regular training, attend talks, companies can even host talks, and the work place should be structured around causing employees to interact and collaborate with each other through unstructured or chance meetings.
TED Talks are a global fanomanon that has become mainstream, it is a key tool in learning about a multitude of different topics and for learning from other peoples experiences (TED, n.d.).
Changing is like renewing, you should be willing to embrace change in all aspects of life because the moment you stay still life can over take you. Over the past 20 years we have gone from no one really having mobile phone or the internet to nearly everyone having the internet on their mobile phones and using them every day, and in the not to distance future we will probably see mobile phones disappear to be replaced with augmented vision through glasses, contacts and possibly implants. Companies can help employees embrace and love change by providing the correct environment, for example by having multiple different zones that people can work at, reduce the routine of work and break up the day.
A method that can help an employee to with change and renewing is to conduct regular projects in disciplines outside of their comfort zone, maybe this can be done as personal project. Many companies around the world, most noticeably Google, operate 20% time which means employees get to spend 20% of their work time on a project of their choosing. This system has meant that companies have come up with hugely successful products that they had not planned for.
Real World Examples that help stimulate Creativity Change, and Renewing
The images above are of the offices of Lilly, Uk (Andrew Laing, 2011). On the left is what their office use to be like and the right what it is like now. Lilly reduced the amount of assigned space and increased the amount of shared and temporary, unassigned space, which employees can use during the two-thirds of the day when they are not at their desks. The new spaces are not generic but designed for different kinds of work (quiet focus rooms for tasks that demand concentration, cafés and team rooms for collaborative work, enclaves for private conversations). The more open plan promotes ad hoc communication and, employees say, stimulates more creativity. In the initial series of pilots, Lilly saw workers’ satisfaction with their workspace almost double, associated capital costs nearly cut in half, and the amount of time lost to distractions, waiting, looking for meeting rooms, and the like decrease by 16%.
Having an open office where managers and employees sit in the same open planned space fosters openness and encourages interactions. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg strongly believes in transparency so all the work spaces are open. (office environment and workplace productivity, 2012).
What all the office examples in this blog have in common is: They encourage interaction, they stimulate the senses, there are areas to relax and switch off, and provide a place that you want to be. At the end of the day the office is where most of us spend the second most amount of time other than home, therefore the office should be a place that you feel comfortable and encourage you to want to be and this in turn aids in fostering innovation. Employers should trust their work force to balance the work with the other activities, and by having a happy employee their work efficiency and innovation will sky rocket.
Andrew Laing, D. C. (2011, 09 01). Vision Statement: High-Performance Office Space. Retrieved from Harvard Buisness Review: https://hbr.org/2011/09/high-performance-office-space
Goodman, N. (2012, 11 05). James Dyson on Using Failure to Drive Success. Retrieved from Entrepreneur: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/224855
office environment and workplace productivity. (2012, 08 16). Retrieved from Everglades Technology: http://www.etny.net/best_office_environment_nyc
TED. (n.d.). Our organization. Retrieved from TED Ideas Worth Spreading: https://www.ted.com/about/our-organization