Ask Us How: Encouraging Initiative and Smart Ideas

Posted by Michael Derin

Published on October 16, 2013 under NSW Business Chamber Partnership

Each and every one of us has leadership qualities. Successful business owners are able to harness this by creating a team of leaders and building a culture that values experimentation, collaboration and problem solving. These businesses have higher productivity, better customer service, are more innovative and are ultimately healthier and more competitive.

Developing your team to be leaders will empower them to take ownership, initiative and be more engaged in helping the business improve. It will also create more opportunity for fresh ideas as your team will be more invested in contributing to the overall success of the organisation.

The recent Leadership, Culture and Management Practices of High Performing Workplaces in Australia report showed good leadership leads to strong financial performance. In addition to high performing workplaces being as much as three times more profitable and more likely to reach financial goals, it showed they are much better at developing new ideas, meeting customer satisfaction goals and achieving much higher employee retention.

HOW TO PROMOTE INITIATIVE AND IDEA SHARING

A great way to get new ideas flowing is to create a culture of continuous improvement. A small consultancy business achieves this by simply having a ‘New Ideas’ box. Whenever someone has a, “You know what we should do?” moment that idea is put into the box. At their monthly meetings these new ideas are discussed with the best ones chosen to be actioned or developed. By having a culture that values new ideas and collaboration, they have been able to develop new processes and services which are one step ahead of their competitors.

The consultancy is also good at monitoring the progress of new projects and collaborating on their development and implementation. When developing ideas there should be a defined process and measurable outcomes with the involved team members held accountable for progress. You may have heard the phrase, ‘fail fast and fail often’ as it goes hand-in-hand with innovation. By experimenting and trialling new ideas straight away and not allowing them to get trapped in the business analysis phase, you learn more quickly about what works and improve the quality and return from your innovation.

In a world of advancing technologies and shifting consumer behaviours, innovation is a matter of survival. For clever businesses it is also the path to competitive advantage and new revenue streams. However making this a reality requires open collaboration, problem solving and risk taking to be part of the organisation’s DNA. This means encouraging your team to be leaders, to take ownership and contribute new ideas to ensure the continuing success of the business.

HOW TO GET INNOVATION AND IDEAS ACTIONED

Once you have started encourage initiative and the sharing of ideas in your business, the creative ideas will begin to flow. The next step is to begin auctioning and implanting these ideas. Here are some tips:

  1. Write a summary or create a PowerPoint presentation about your innovative ideas. Include photos and illustrations to describe your idea if it's a technical invention.
  2. Schedule meetings with co-workers and supervisors to share your innovative ideas if they are related to your work. Share your personal ideas with family and friends. Ask them for honest feedback and suggestions.
  3. Attend and participate as a speaker at events related to your ideas. Conferences are great opportunities to share best practices and ideas. Engage as much as you can in discussions centered around finding new solutions to the problem your idea solves.
  4. Organize and promote an event focused on sharing innovative ideas. Events can be large or small. Invite key people who you feel may be most interested in what you have to share.
  5. Create and participate in online discussion groups and email distribution lists related to your ideas. Ask questions and solicit feedback along with contributing your thoughts about other people's ideas.
  6. Hire a marketing agency to help promote your ideas to industry decision makers and leaders. Marketing agencies often have large networks and resources to spread your great ideas far and wide.

ROADBLOCKS TO INNOVATION

Rigid thinking - A media company held its sales team back by sticking to outdated sales procedures and KPIs and didn’t listen to suggestions from their frontline staff on better ways to engage their clients. As a result they struggled to capture market share when sales rebounded following the GFC.

Resistance to change - You just have to look at the Australian retail landscape to see resistance to change. Retailers that have been resistant to online commerce have suffered amid soft consumer spending and a high Australian dollar. It has been the more innovative retailers who have been able to grab more market share while also create more efficient business models.

Innovation delegated to management - Many CEOs leave innovation and creative ideas to their managers. However, managers tend to be focused on operating efficiency and find the task of developing fresh concepts too disruptive. The natural champion of innovation is the CEO as they set the tone and direction for the business.

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