Innovation will grow your company faster than anything. It must be holistic and touch every facet of your business. But what can quell profit-building innovation efforts is a culture that is not fertile to cultivate such growth.
The first root of securing the cultural foundations for accelerated innovation is resolution and the leader's commitment that innovation is a top priority.
Employees want a values list to include things like respect and honesty, but it may be the company's top leader who needs to ensure that the key values are included. Humility is foundational. It requires all to admit that there could always be a better way and that others may have a better insight or answer. But open communication and safety in communicating problems are critical as people will clam up as soon as an authority pounces on their ideas or suggestions.
All Hands on Deck
Every person must be committed to making regular efforts for improvement. Every person is exposed to at least a few areas of the business that they think could be improved. Management must require a minimum number of ideas to be turned in from every employee.
Quantity vs. Quality
A key to success in innovation is reaching the optimum quantity of ideas. It is better to create 1,000 new potential mediocre ideas vs. a handful of excellent ideas. The research proves a quantity of ideas will beget better quality ones. This is because the multitude of ideas usually spurs nuances and ever new ideas that ultimately lead to the most valued ideas to implement.
Communication of Implementation
Getting everyone to begin looking for improvement opportunities and solutions to implement changes will have the team thinking and changing habits. To continue the growth of such habits, they must be fed with the feedback of success. Employees must regularly hear how their ideas and how everyone's participation in innovation is improving their business.
Specific and Universal Rewards
The fact is that good behaviors, strategically recognized and incentivized, are behaviors that become repeated and habitual. Individuals who recommend ideas that have significant impact to profits should be given significant rewards. As the tide of innovation rises — a tide that is the result of a team contributing great efforts toward innovation — monetary and other rewards should be shared with all the team.
Leading and managing the innovation process and culture takes work, and thus when times are good some may want to rest and ride out their competitive advantages. But the ideal is an ongoing process at levels that all of the team can keep up. Avoid innovation efforts that are in spurts, as this causes long-term employees to call any new efforts the "management-style flavor of the day." The process must be more like the path on a mobius loop — never-ending consistency based on only one side (albeit a creatively connected one side) of an innovation-based, values-oriented culture.