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Chapter: Business Science - Managerial Behavior and Effectiveness - Developing the Winning Edge

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Fostering Creativity and innovation

It is a very common tendency of every employee to get into a rut at work especially if one has been doing a same kind of job for a very long time. The longer one has been doing the job the greater is the tendency to keep doing things the way they have always done them; as it gets monotonous, easy and boring.

Fostering Creativity and innovation

 

It is a very common tendency of every employee to get into a rut at work especially if one has been doing a same kind of job for a very long time. The longer one has been doing the job the greater is the tendency to keep doing things the way they have always done them; as it gets monotonous, easy and boring.

 

In almost every job there is opportunity for creativity and innovation – sometimes they are small operational improvements and sometimes they are big challenging innovations.

 

How can you be creative and innovative at your work?

 

Here are five steps:

 

1. There is always a scope for improvement: every single product, service,method and aspect of any job can be done in many different and better ways. Approach every task with the attitude that the current method can always be improvised and that your job is to find a better way to do it.

 

2.   Asking is the beginning of improving: ask colleagues, friends, seniors and customers what problems and issues they have with a product or service. Discuss ideas for cost savings and quality improvements. Inter-departmental communication about what could be improvised is also a great way. People in other places have different exposure; thus different viewpoints and can help to identify problem areas and opportunities that you could have possibly missed looking at. Network with people in other fields and discuss their attitudes and approaches to some of the topics that concern you.

 

3.   Unleash the power of ideas: ideas are the raw material for progress. A well co-ordinated brainstorming or ideation session with a group of diverse people helps generate great ideas for any business challenge or new business opportunities. Testing, accepting and implementing the best ideas multiply the chances of success.

 

4.   Learn from the experience of others: experience may be a good teacher; someone else‘s experience is a far better teacher. Look far outside. Discuss with superiors and people who have experience and expertise in tackling the sort of challenges that you or your organization faces. Look far outside. How have other organizations in different sectors faired with challenges? What do businesses similar to yours but in other zones of the world do? Research may help pinch some of their great ideas and you can try applying them locally.

 

Maybe you can contribute a few ideas of your own ideas which will help your manager or the company at large. Exhibit that you are a positive contributor of ideas.

 

5. Change your attitude to failure: As Woody Allen puts it; ―If you‘re not failing now and again, it‘s a sign you are not doing anything very innovative.‖ The most innovative organizations really do think differently. The organizations that do not innovate inevitably age and decline. Thus, to sustain in a period of rapid change it is vital to recognize the fact that innovation is significant positive change be it in products, processes or people.

 

Every CEO says the same thing, ―We need creativity and innovation here.‖

 

Ironically, in the same organization, we see people frightened to try new things. There are many barriers to think and create innovatively – the fear of being judged, the fear of failure, employees being overburdened, issues of budget etc.

 

There are some other ways to foster innovation,

 

1. Let Every Employee Play Designer.

 

Three years ago, the five-person research and development team at pet-accessory company West Paw Design had a case of collective writer's block. A production manager named Seth Partain proposed holding a contest for the company's three-dozen employees. Everyone from salespeople to seamstresses were encouraged to spend an afternoon designing and producing prototypes for new products. Following an end-of-day vote, a winner was crowned at an award ceremony. By making employees feel a part of the idea-creation process, West Paw Design set up a new pipeline of product development.

 

2. Provide Lots of Free Time to Think.

 

"The five last bastions of thinking are the car, the john, the shower, the church or synagogue, and the gym," Joey Reiman, CEO of BrightHouse, told Inc.'s Leigh Buchanan. Note the absence of office from that roster. So, to allow for that crucial "think time," in addition to nearly five weeks' vacation, BrightHouse's 18 staff members get five "Your Days," in which they are encouraged to visit a spot conducive to reflection and let their neurons rip.

 

3. Use New Software to Round Up Staff Ideas.

 

What happens when your employees are too shy to pipe up? That happened at Solar Systems, an El Canjon, California, company that installs solar power systems. So CEO Mike Hall decided to use an online survey tool to allow employees to review their peers idea submissions – and set a prize at $500. "We knew we had people who might be shy about submitting ideas," he says. "We gave them a forum that encourages everyone to share."

 

4. Encourage Risk-Taking.

 

Another innovation booster at BrightHouse is the company's annual event known as March Fo(u)rth. On that date, each employee is encouraged to do something he or she has never before attempted – say, skydive or give a large presentation. "If we're known for anything, it's possibilitarianism," says CEO Reiman.

 

5. Hold an Intern Contest.

 

La Jolla Group, an apparel company in Irvine, California, recognized in 2007 that it faced a shortage of designers specializing in surf fashions. So CEO Toby Bost came up with the idea for a contest – a contest to earn employment in his company. Now, each September, a handful of teens compete in a runway fashion show judged by audience members who text message a vote for their favorite designer. The winner of the fashion show receives an internship at La Jolla Group, a $4,000 scholarship, free clothes, and a mention in Teen Vogue. "I knew that we couldn't keep going on by pinching designers from each other's backyards," Bost said. "We needed to manufacture long-term talent by targeting students early and focusing them on a design career."

 

6. Reward Million-Dollar Ideas.

 

A few years ago, a college student spending the summer programming at Fog Creek Software, came to his boss, Inc. columnist Joel Spolsky, with an idea: What about running job ads on the company's blog? The site was popular in the programming community, and the student, Noah Weiss, proposed hosting relevant classified job ads could open up a new revenue stream. It did: more than $1 million came in. Spolsky decided a reward was in order. But what? Spolsky offered the student an equity stake—if he were to return to Fog Creek as a full-time employee.

 

7. New Project, New Team.

 

InnovationLabs in Walnut Creek, California, thrives on being an outfit of outsiders. That's because the company has just four principals and pulls together a new team for each new project. Teams are comprised of referrals, including business professors, webmasters, scientists, and miscellaneous others. InnovationLabs allows these team members to work any way they like. "Some people are amused when they work with us, because we're so averse to telling people what to do," says managing partner Langdon Morris. "But we want our people to be creative about how they help clients be creative."

 

8. Allocate 10 Percent of Time for Invention.

 

 

Scott Cook, the founder of Intuit, says one of the keys to encouraging innovation is to let employees be as inventive as possible. "We encourage this by allowing our engineers and product managers in most of our divisions to devote 10 percent of their workweeks to new ideas," Cook says. "That's how we developed many of our products and features."

 

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