Innovation has emerged as a top priority for leaders around the world over the last few years. Three-quarters of CEOs now say that innovation is as important to company success as an organization’s overall operational effectiveness, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.*

Key reasons for the urgency to innovate are the pace of technological change and the pressure of global competition. Even if your company and market are local, worldwide changes are impacting the way customers look for and buy products and services.

You can’t innovate alone. To keep pace, your entire team needs to be thinking about ways to respond to changes in your industry and in your customer needs. Use the following tips to involve your team in the process of innovating. 

Assign someone to educate your team
The best employees are the ones who understand industry shifts, relevant technology trends and impending changes in the way customers want to buy from your company. The best way to ensure that they are up to date, and therefore well-equipped to help your company innovate, is to provide this information for them. An easy approach to this task is to have one person on your team gather and share this information. This does not have to be a huge effort; it can be a quick overview of key trends, competitor developments or new technologies at a weekly or occasional team meeting.

Facilitate team contributions
A team that is encouraged to consider and contribute creative ideas and solutions will be more inclined to do so. Keep your team — including key freelancers — updated on company performance and future opportunities. You don’t have to share revenue numbers; an overview of company direction and developments will suffice. At the same time, make it clear you want to hear from them: Solicit suggestions that could improve the company, and ask for feedback. Adopt an open-door policy that invites employees and managers to visit your office with questions and comments.

Provide independence
Staffers who are independent are more likely to innovate since the responsibility of owning a project or process encourages people to consider the best way to manage it. Put your team on the right course by providing goals and making yourself available for problem resolution, and then leave the day-to-day execution to your team.

Remove roadblocks to innovation
Reinforce your commitment to innovation by providing the materials and information your staff needs to do their jobs well. Obviously, this has to be done within reason, since you may not be able to buy anything and everything your team asks for. The key to removing roadblocks is to listen and be responsive to team requests for items they need to do their jobs effectively. When possible, try to take action quickly on any issues that may slow them down. When you can’t, explain why and brainstorm another solution.

Take risks
Innovation can require risk, and you set the bar for risk tolerance in your company. You don’t have to be a “risk junky” (most successful business owners are not) to demonstrate an appetite for risk. Taking a risk can be as simple as searching for a new vendor to improve the quality of your product or changing the way you provide customer service. By taking these steps, and acknowledging that any change involves risk, you will encourage your team to bring innovative ideas to you.

*PricewaterhouseCoopers, Global CEO Pulse Survey, 2013


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