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Encouraging greater innovation in the workplace

Innovation can be vital to growing your business. Here are some tips for building a workplace culture that fosters innovation.

Entrepreneurs are consistently looking for new ways to innovate, develop and keep things fresh. It’s a mentality that all business owners should aim to integrate into their day-to-day practices. Dedicating time to research market changes, competitor movements, and potential gaps and opportunities that your business can take advantage of is important, and helps to maximise market share.

For many business owners, it’s important to encourage an innovative culture and to continually improve what you offer and how you operate. Refining your products and services while simultaneously streamlining production costs and ensuring you have the best talent in your business can be difficult to juggle, yet it’s the formula for sustained success.

Having launched a range of different financial start-ups – and now focusing on the US and international expansion of Verifi, an end-to-end payments protection and management provider – I’ve faced the same challenges as any business owner when trying to drive my team to think of ideas for improvement or new and enhanced revenue streams.

Across the years, I’ve found it useful to consistently revisit these key questions:

  • How can we increase the benefits we offer our clients?
  • How can we improve our operations?
  • How can we promote collaborative problem-solving and a positive work culture?

But these ideas cannot happen in isolation. No matter how great a concept, you need a team around you that can help make it reality.

How do leaders foster greater innovation in the workplace?

  1. Encourage alternative points of view

    There’s often more than one way to solve a problem, but it’s best to find the most efficient and cost-effective method. Bringing together employees of different backgrounds, passions and capabilities can produce a diverse set of ideas and a range of problem-solving approaches that help to drive innovation. Having cognitive diversity in a workplace is highly valuable. Celebrate your team’s individuality and outside-the-box ideas.

  2. Model and promote fearless behavior and continual improvement

    For employees to feel safe trying out new ideas, they must feel assured that any mistakes they may make while testing them out will not cause backlash. The best way to make the workforce comfortable is to model the behavior yourself, and encourage your executive team to do the same.

    Making ‘continual improvement’ one of your core business values can also help. Your team will be more willing to take risks with their ideas if you share how you’ve tried something and it may not have turned out as expected, or when you demonstrate how continual improvement has been incorporated throughout the organisation – from product design to operating procedures.

  3. Hire for culture

    Look for team members who understand your business vision, are passionate about it, and align with your culture. A team with a shared vision and that works together helps the organisation run far more smoothly. When people are passionate about their work, it shines through. Bringing on people who love what they do and want to contribute to developing improvements for your products will garner the best results for your business.

  4. Incorporate sprints

    ‘Sprints’ are an approach that many in the start-up scene will be familiar with. It’s a set amount of time in which your team works to finish a project. Sprints are often a great way to help break away from the hustle and bustle of daily office life which, in time, wreaks havoc on everyone’s concentration levels.

    Start-ups develop quickly in the early stages because there are few everyday distractions. Once your core team starts to grow into individual teams that operate more autonomously, encouraging them to work in a remote location to finish tasks, even surrounded by nature, is a great way to centre their focus and improve their productivity.

  5. Give yourself and your team a break

    Communicate how important it is to take a holiday and lead by example. In today’s world our brains are always switched on and connected. Taking time off to rest and relax is vital for good work–life balance. Worn-down workaholics don’t produce the highest quality output. Encourage your employees to be fresh and excited – the easiest way to do this is to make time-off non-negotiable.

At the end of the day, if something does go wrong, ensure your team takes the time to understand what has happened and how it could be improved. Keep moving forward. Don’t get mired down and feel powerless to make the changes required – fail hard, fail fast and always try to make it better in the future.

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