how to encourage innovation

How to Encourage Innovation

Learning how to encourage innovation in your company is a massive cog in the machine of success. Without innovation you’re going to be playing catch up to your competitors. You’ll wallow in mediocrity while your imaginative and adventurous rivals forge ahead on paths of accomplishment. In the competitive battlefield of modern-day business, the victors are the innovators.

If you innovate, you’ll be a victor.

It needs to be an intrinsic part of your processes, right at the forefront of your team’s thoughts and actions. It can be tough, because it requires change and maybe some flexibility that doesn’t exist in your organization. The steps below should hopefully give you a better idea of how to encourage innovation to a level where it becomes second nature to your company.

9 Ways to Foster Innovation in Your Organisation


According to Investopedia, “intrapreneurship refers to a system that allows an employee to act like an entrepreneur within a company or other organization.”

Businesses are full of entrepreneurs unwilling to sacrifice their security for the pursuit of their ideas or inventions. There’s too much risk to go it alone. The answer is to take the risk away from them and remove their fear. Promote their ideas and creativity and imagination and listen to their ideas within your organization.

If the ideas fail, the organization absorbs the losses, not them personally. If the ideas work, the organization benefits and they get the recognition.

Sounds like a win-win situation.

The 15% rule

You’ve heard of the manufacturing giant 3M. They’ve been around for over 100 years and have turnover in excess of $30-billion. They’re a global success story, much of which is attributable to one of their early General Managers, a certain William McKnight.

McKnight was a huge proponent of innovation, fervently incorporating it into the 3M corporate culture. One of his philosophies was to “listen to anybody with an idea”, and a major cornerstone of this was what is known as the 15% rule.

With this rule in place, employees could commit 15% of their time at work to creative thought or experimental projects. The idea is that some of these ideas would lead to actual feasible products or solutions that the company could adopt.

I’d say that approach to innovation worked out pretty nicely for them.

Don’t Judge People by Their Failures

This isn’t about actively encouraging people to fail. It’s about making a supportive workplace where people can be expressive and experimental. There’s no point in allocating 15% of a workday to coming up with ideas if the ideas just get ridiculed.

Your team needs to understand that if ideas fail, you’re cool with it. As is everyone else in the company.

Just as failure is accepted, success needs to be celebrated. Humans love recognition, it’s essential to workplace happiness. By recognizing the innovative successes within your workplace, the culture of progressive ideas continues to grow.

Own Your Clients Problems

For most businesses, your clients are the lifeblood of your business. You’ve done your market research and you know what your base looks like.

Now, it’s time to approach your customers as if they’re your partners in innovation. Communicate with them, observe their behaviours, listen to their needs. Figure out their pain points and solve them.

Be empathetic, be understanding and be accommodating. You’ll end up with outcomes the marketplace is willing to pay for, because you listened to what the marketplace needs.

Create Spaces for Innovation

It’s one thing to tell your team to be creative and bring forth their ideas, it’s another to create physical and digital spaces for them to do this. By doing so you give them avenues to focus on creativity and drown out the clutter.

At Smile IT our idea incubator is JetLabs, an entire section of our office dedicated to innovation. It’s where we meet to create, to think, to throw ideas around and to work on the ones that stick.

If you can’t have a physical space, there are other things you can do. Create digital spaces for idea sharing, such as a Microsoft Teams group chat. Hold workshops centred around innovation. Take teambuilding days to brainstorm ideas outside of the office. Even something like putting up suggestion boxes around the office can help.

Progressive Leadership

Innovative leadership creates an innovative team, it’s as simple as that. Leading from the front by being an idea machine, not being afraid to fail and constantly reassuring and encouraging your team will reap rewards. Have a positive outlook, a clear vision and the flexibility to embrace change.

Building an effective team starts with hiring the right people. Take on board those with an entrepreneurial outlook, self-motivators with a forward-thinking mindset. Then go about clearly communicating your innovation objectives and creating the corporate structure within which your team can help you achieve them.

Don’t Be Afraid

This is linked to the above point in that you need to inspire your team to move beyond the fear of failure. If you don’t innovate because you’re afraid of failure, the end result will almost undoubtedly be failure.

By creating and fostering a culture of openness and idea sharing using the points in this article, hopefully fear will be something that doesn’t hold your team back.

Embrace Time Off

Making the most of allocated holiday time and days off is important in keeping your employees fresh and engaged. We need to detach from work in order to avoid burnout. If we’re feeling refreshed we’re also more resilient and better equipped to take on the stresses of the workplace.

There are also obvious health benefits to getting out of the office and visiting the beach or hiking up a mountain. Enjoying some fresh air and sunshine and just integrating with different people will inspire creativity and renew enthusiasm

Aspire To Be The Best

To do this, analyse the market leader in your industry and figure out how to be better than them. Observe how they operate, learn their products, prices and culture. Benchmark your company against their strengths and learn where their weaknesses lie.

Successful innovation means doing things before your industry rivals do. If you have a good understanding of your competitors, you’ll intuitively anticipate the direction they head in. Your ability to be on the top of your game and be a leader, not a follower, will be enhanced.

Some of these ideas on how to encourage innovation will be easy to adopt. Some might require a bit more flexibility or larger scale changes. Positive change happens one step at a time, so why not start promoting innovation within your company now by taking a couple of them on board now?

If you have any questions about innovation, get in touch with us at Smile IT and JetLabs. We’d love to talk about your ideas. We also have a team of developers who can help bring your ideas to life, from web apps to problem-solving software.

peter drummond

When he’s not writing tech articles or turning IT startups into established and consistent managed service providers, Peter Drummond can be found kitesurfing on the Gold Coast or hanging out with his family!