How to foster innovation and creativity within a company



Nowadays we are facing more and more complexity, rapid change and economic instability. The current Corona crisis radically changed the way we live and work. At the same time, innovative companies and new start-ups arise faster than ever with amazing and sometimes astounding ideas. They are strong competitors in the marketplace with new and innovative products and services.

More than ever companies face the need to change, adapt and be innovative. New ideas, products and services are essential in order to keep up with the current changes and challenges. Therefore it is crucial to foster innovation and creativity.

Here are three steps in order to foster innovation and creativity as a company:

1. Breaking down Silos

When employees within the same company, purposely do not share knowledge and information between departments and teams, a Silo mentality exists. Such a mindset causes, among other things, misalignment, poor decision making, slow processes, miscommunication and lack of innovation and creativity. It not only exists in established hierarchical companies but also in more modern ones. There is often the belief that companies with cross-functional teams cannot have such a Silo mentality. However, such teams tend to become so independent that they become silos on their own.

By breaking down silos, employees start to connect across departments and teams. Relationships can foster, which leads to increased solidarity, acceptance and understanding. In the long run, conflicts and miscommunication will decrease, and barriers will slowly break down. Finally, knowledge and information transfer start to increase and employees receive new perspectives and insights, get challenged and learn about new topics. This fosters new ideas and new ways of thinking.

Here are two simple approaches to start breaking down silos:

  • Mystery Lunch

A Mystery lunch is a lunch appointment with two randomly selected employees. Employees within the whole company can voluntarily register for such lunch dates. Random matches will be drawn and announced. In order to foster higher participation, Mystery lunch should happen regularly and can be made even more appealing by providing lunch vouchers.

A Mystery lunch can also be made remote. Start now to create a better togetherness. Read here more about that topic.

  • Buddy Systems

Buddy systems are used in sports to support, train and coach each other. Such approaches are also beneficial at work. Buddy systems can have very different purposes and be used in various ways. Therefore, it is essential to identify the needs of the company and implement a Buddy system which fits these needs. The approach of Mutual Buddies is one example of how to foster innovation and creativity.

The primary purpose of Mutual Buddies is joint learning, growing and knowledge sharing. Mutual Buddies meet regularly to talk about their ambitions, encourage each other and provide feedback to each other. Such regular exchanges provide new insights and perspectives which creates new ideas and solutions. Read here more about that topic.

2. Add fresh impetus with an Innovation Tournament

An Innovation Tournament is an excellent way to add further impetus and to create new ideas and innovations.

Such a tournament creates not only new momentum and foster innovation, but it also creates a change in mindset. Over time, employees will begin to challenge the status quo and become more solution-oriented. Winners receive not only full ownership but also budget, time, resources, and a team to implement their idea. As a result, an Innovation Tournament can be a lot of fun and sparks enthusiasm to experiment with new ideas.

However, an Innovation Tournament needs to be regularly to benefit from it entirely. If such events are unknown, fear of failure or uncertainties can hinder employees from participating. It can take a few rounds until they feel comfortable and safe enough to involve themselves.

At this point, it is essential to mention that failures can and will happen. Only if employees feel safe to experiment, Innovation Tournaments are going to add new impetus. Read here more about that topic.

3. Foster self-organisation with a Pre-Approval process

Self-organisation means that employees organize themselves and have some decision-making power. People in self-organized organizations have a high sense of ownership and responsibility. As a result, employees naturally focus on constant improvement, they are more committed and motivated.

Higher self-organization and decision-making power shorten response times, increases decision-making and approval processes become less complex. Consequentially stakeholder and customer satisfaction increase due to faster and more intuitive responses. Finally, stress and pressure get reduced for management and they can finally focus on more essential topics.

It is of course not always possible to distribute every decision making towards lower levels. Management and employees likewise have to get used to such changes. With more decision-making power comes more responsibility, for which not every employee feels ready. Additionally, not every manager feels immediately comfortable to let go of control.

As a result, this pre-approval process is an excellent first step to start. The Pre-Approval process is an approach in which employees are allowed to make decisions in predefined situations without asking for approval first. Employees still have the choice to choose if they ask for approval first or not, and management still receives all the information. In the beginning, a pre-approval can be granted for a few topics only and be extended as confidence increases. This process can be a first safe step to distribute decision making towards lower levels. Read here more about that topic.