Four Ways to Encourage Innovation
Chris Gardner Co-Founder & CEO, Artemis Consultants, Columbus, OH
Innovation is the lifeblood of any business, regardless of the size or industry. Without faster, stronger, cheaper and better ways of doing things it’s impossible to remain competitive in the fast-paced global economy.
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What is innovation? It is defined as: “The process of translating an idea or invention into a product or service that creates value.”
Unfortunately for the financial side of the healthcare industry, finding ways to innovate can be extremely elusive. There is no way to snap your fingers and suddenly do things in a way that has never been done.
Instead of attempting to innovate by using a “shoot first, aim later” method, healthcare executives can follow four proven strategies to create the environment and conditions that will lead to new ways of thinking about improving their organizations.
Offer Incentives and Rewards
Ironically, as valuable as innovative thinking is, organizations often are unwilling to encourage their people to be “possibility” thinkers. This lack of encouragement by leadership causes team members to keep great ideas to themselves, therefore being hesitant to share those ideas, putting little effort into solving problems or thinking differently. The simple fact is that employees are spurred on by rewards, and if they know they will earn money, vacation time or some other perk for being innovative, they will look for ways to achieve goals or improve processes.
Enable Project Ownership
One of the biggest obstacles team members face in sharing innovative solutions with their supervisors is often dealing with the rigor of their daily duties and responsibilities. Team members have to pay attention to their jobs throughout the day, and they often don’t have the time or permission to focus on being innovative and sharing new ideas. Many of the world’s most innovative organizations and companies give team members the freedom and encouragement to have creative thinking time alongside their chief responsibilities. This strategy has produced a number of exciting process improvements, innovative ideas and breakthrough solutions.
Don’t Penalize Failure
Why isn’t your organization more innovative? It might be because risk taking is not encouraged. Team members are afraid to try things differently because they fear losing incentive pay or having their innovative ideas not perceived as valuable and negatively affecting their chances of getting a promotion. In this kind of work environment, innovation is, at best, anemic and, at worst, impossible. Give your team permission to fail without repercussion. The best, brightest and most innovative people in your organization will eventually come up with great solutions that make perfect sense.
Solicit Ideas Anonymously
Closely knit employees sometimes develop a herd mentality. While this can be beneficial for productivity, it can stifle those who may have innovative ideas. The solution is to simply make it possible for team members to submit ideas anonymously. Something as basic as a locked wooden box filled with scribbles on scraps of paper may yield an idea that revolutionizes the way your organization operates.
If your team doesn’t seem motivated to be innovative, a solution to shake things up could be to add a new member to the team. Sometimes changing the dynamics of a work group by adding new people can create competition and stimulate an entire department to think differently, create fresh ideas and new approaches.
Building an innovative culture is important to healthcare providers, vendors and companies across the globe. The best run companies place innovation as a top initiative in their organizations. This subject is so popular that The Harvard Business Review undertook a six-year study to uncover the origins of innovation and creative business strategies for well-known innovative companies.
The ability to innovate is often thought of as the “secret sauce” of business success. Unfortunately, most of us know very little about what makes one person more creative than another. Innovative entrepreneurship is not a genetic predisposition, it is an active endeavor. The study determined that innovators must consistently act different to think different. By understanding, reinforcing and modeling the innovator’s personal makeup, companies can find ways to more successfully develop the creative spark in everyone.