The ability to generate new ideas and products which result in continued business success is not limited to the talents of a select few. Rather, it’s innate potential in each employee that can be unlocked with the right company processes and support. Any business that succeeds in being innovative is sure to enjoy greater efficiency and improved performance and productivity, and so while innovation can independently originate from one person, there is tremendous value in actively fostering the collective innovative potential of all teams.
How to tap the innovation potential of your team
The need to be cutting edge and innovative is a well-worn business cliché. What’s most important is acting upon the many ways in which you can tap the innovation potential of your team, many of which are highlighted here.
Have a special team tasked with Research & Development: this is the starting point for most companies, a method whose operational principle is that of division of labor. Here, a special team comprising of professionals is constituted, and mandated with the task of innovation, through Marketing, Research & Development. It remains their primary duty to come up with new ideas of products and services to boost the functions of the company. It is also their mandate to launch these products and services – and this they should do with great pride and faith in a company that takes their interests at heart.
Outsourcing: the other way to tap the potential of your team is to give them a boost seeking the mentorship of other innovative sources. The parallel illustration for this could be benchmarking with large companies that are known to be doing very well. The models used in these companies will surely bear fruits since they have been tried in large scale and proven successfully. It must however be remembered that outsourcing is convenient but comes at a cost that most small and medium companies may not be able to afford. In the end, such companies are left with the only option of seeking help from much smaller companies whose charges are affordable. And while this would work for them budget-wise speaking, the results may not be quite predictable.
Engage employees not normally tasked with R & D: while the principle of division of labor dictates that each department or employee keep to his or her lane in the flow of services, it’s important to appreciate the fact that this does not necessarily eradicate the possibility of getting a helping hand from other departments. In the real sense, many of the employees in various companies end up being underutilized, and their great potential end up in total waste. To tap the innovation potential of your team requires that you bring together all the employees who do not work directly under the department of Marketing, Research and Development, bearing in mind that they are professionals in their own right.
Every day as employees walk around the facilities, as they prepare and market the products or services, as they speak to/with their clients and suppliers, team members speak quite a lot about various aspects of their companies and work life. To this end, they get a very broad opportunity to interact with men and women from all walks of life, who could include family members, friends, and immediate members of their neighborhoods. In so doing, employees’ promotion and interaction may far outweigh other forms of formal advertisement. Much more, team members receive great ideas from their contacts on how to be better placed in the market, how to improve on their products, and seeds of new concepts become planted in their minds. And guess what? You and your employees enjoy all the privileges at no cost to the company.
The department of New Product Development (NPD) and that of Marketing, Research and Development, should pull together their members to form a taskforce mandated with collecting these opinions, carefully analyzing and classifying them in order of their applicability and importance with reference to the immediate, short term, and long term objectives of the company. Having tapped the ideas of innovation in a free and fair setting, the company should remember that this is a process, not a single event. In view of this, these employees should equally be appreciated in small and big ways. Treat them with a special luncheon or dinner, give them some tokens of appreciation like letters and certificates, and plan for special awards. That type of appreciation, while simple can go a long way in their memories and experiences in your employ.
As discussed above, there are many ways in which you can unlock the innovation potential of your team, both internally and externally by letting your team members have the mindset that they too can contribute to the high-level objectives of the company. However, this must be deliberately done to take into account your customers, for whom you must have deep empathy, think of how to bring about meaningful benefit to their lives, and don’t limit the search for new ideas to your industry. In the end, keep in mind not everyone will be excited about all innovative ideas, and so it’s important to not allow any challenges or obstacles blur the outlook for the future.