Five Steps to Infuse Innovation Into the Workplace

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By: Ashley AuBuchon|

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When I stepped into my new role managing the global innovation program for a technical organization with more than 150,000 employees, I felt overwhelmed — to say the least. I knew going into the position that there’s no button you can press to automatically turn a large group of people into a highly functioning, innovative team. Ultimately, fostering a cohesive community takes strategy, support and time.

But in the world of IT, you don’t always have those three things to help drive new growth in your organization, which means you have to innovate while adapting to the ever-changing demands of the industry. The good news is that over the past eight months, I’ve developed an effective formula to infuse innovation into any workplace (that’s right — I’ve done the hard work for you). Take a look at these five simple strategies your business can use today to successfully shift to a more innovative workforce.

1. Start With the Leadership Team

I’m not talking about business leaders commanding subordinates to “innovate or else” — that’s the opposite of what we need to do to nurture the behaviors and mindset required to foster innovative strategies. If employees don’t feel like their opinions matter, they’ll simply no longer have a desire to share those opinions and ideas for fear of being ignored or shot down.

Leaders today must set an example by being open to more suggestions from all areas and people in their business. We can no longer have a status quo mentality — we need to start pushing back against what has always been in order to move forward to what could be.

2. Collaborate

Most employees have a strong desire to work on something beyond what their day job requires and are willing to spend more hours in the office or at home to work on something they’re passionate about. Giving your employees something to collaborate on outside their day-to-day tasks can help re-energize them and give them a greater sense of purpose in the workplace.

3. Limit the Rules

While creativity is crucial, there may be a need to set some guidelines if you have specific results you’re looking for within your innovation program. For ours, we’re looking for new solutions we can offer clients to get them more efficient and cost-effective IT-as-a-service models that align with their business needs. But that doesn’t mean we ignore great ideas that might not fit this mold. What’s important is to ensure everyone’s voice is heard.

4. Inspire Creativity With Themes and Challenges

Sometimes what’s needed for a workforce to truly get innovative is to give your employees an example of your desired outcome. By announcing themes throughout the year, you can maintain a drumbeat of communication to keep things interesting and give real examples of how ideas can help the business in strategic areas.

While collaboration should be the focus, another way to generate ideas is to instigate some friendly competition. This can be done by setting up challenges between teams and creating incentives for participation.

5. Reward Innovative Behavior and Results

From recognizing employees as “master innovators” to giving them badges to proudly display in their email signatures, there are countless ways you can encourage more innovative behaviors without breaking the bank. And if you can swing it, cash prizes are never a bad idea.

As professionals, we should all want to be more innovative and take part in something cutting-edge, but sometimes we just don’t know where to start. Be an innovator to inspire innovation, using these tips to change mindsets, create new energy and drive better business results for your organization. Be sure to share with me on Twitter how you plan to use these tips to inspire your workforce.

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About The Author

Ashley AuBuchon

Innovation Accelerator Program Manager, IBM

Ashley AuBuchon is an executive communications leader and program manager for an organization of over 150,000 technical professionals. As a Certified Social Thought Leader, Ashley is leading the way to a more transparent, collaborative and innovative culture across an international corporation. She also continues to share her passion for communications as she provides soft skill training to her colleagues and local community organizations.