Leaders set the tone for their organizations through what they say and what they do, from the head of the organization to first level managers. Innovation needs to be talked about, emphasized, and showcased by leaders.
Communicate Why Innovation Is Important
It is interesting to see how innovative and open some leaders are in organizations but when you hear from working level employees, their understanding of the amount of innovation accepted within the organization is very different. Working level employees can feel they have little room to do things differently. At times, they feel burnt out after their desire for change has been undermined or their voices have gone unheard.
That is why it is essential to communicate the importance of innovation and encourage innovative behaviors at all levels of the organization to be truly on the cutting edge. Part of the discussion around change involves leaders creating a sandbox around innovation by being able to articulate and emphasize what it means for the organization.
For an organization to continue to evolve, there needs to be direction coming from the top down as well as a willingness to create space for bottom up leadership. Employees that are doing the work likely know the obstacles that they are facing and potential solutions to those challenges. Leaders can enable and encourage their employees to tackle challenges by letting them know they have what it takes to make a change!
Connect & Listen
Leaders need to connect with employees at all levels within their organization to hear directly what is happening (without being filtered through the layers). One way to help cultivate this kind of openness and these kinds of relationships within your organization by having an open-door policy – if you are able to set aside time in your schedule or create ‘office hours’.
Most importantly, listen!
People have differing communication styles and they may not be articulating their opinions the way you communicate. Technical and project manager types tend to prefer analytical communication with numbers while marketers are more about talking about the overall vision. Both styles provide critical information to determine the health and innovation maturity of organizations.
Create Safe Spaces
Innovation and creativity are closely tied to maintaining a tolerance for risk.
To help create ‘psychologically safe space’s for employees leaders need to adopt thinking outside the box, risk and experimentation as part of the process. Develop space where employees can share thoughts and try new things without being reprimanded. Leaders set the tone for the amount of risk employees take and help create a desire for innovation through incentives, rewards, and recognition of successes, failures and learnings.
Innovative leaders regard change and making mistakes as priorities. Safe spaces are created for open discussions where smart risk taking and innovation are encouraged and rewarded in the organization.