There used to be a time when creativity and innovation were only associated with artists, musicians, writers and the like. It didn’t take much for an organization to stand out, back then, as the competition wasn’t so intense and certain industrial players dominated the market. But with changing times, came a different mind-set. The need to ideate is pivotal now more than ever before. In fact, 97% of professionals feel it is important to be creative in their life, as stated in the ‘Education and Innovation in the Middle East and North Africa’ poll, February 2015.  With consumers being bombarded with a million choices every day, you must foster an environment that promotes innovation and creativity amongst your employees.

Here are 10 ways to encourage innovation at your workplace as advised by experts:

  1. Involve your employees: The fact is, if people aren’t feeling connected to your company, there’s little incentive for them to be innovative. Make sure your employees are in the loop on your firm’s strategies and challenges, and invite their input. Employees who are involved early on in processes and plans will be motivated to see them through to completion. Their active participation will fuel more ideas than if they learn of initiatives firsthand.
  2. Make innovation important: Ensure all your employees know that you want to hear their ideas. Unless they understand how innovating your business processes can keep your firm competitive, your efforts at encouraging creative thinking risk falling flat.
  3. Encourage brainstorming: Allocate time for new ideas to emerge. For example, set aside time for brainstorming, hold regular group workshops and arrange team days out. A team involved in a brainstorming session is likely to be more effective than the sum of its parts. You can also place suggestion boxes around the workplace, appeal for new ideas to solve particular problems and always keep your door open to new ideas.
  4. Train your staff: Your staff may be able to bounce an idea around, but be unfamiliar with the skills involved in creative problem-solving. You may find training sessions in formal techniques such as lateral thinking and mind-mapping worthwhile.
  5. Encourage change: Broadening people’s experiences can be a great way to spark ideas. Short-term job swaps can introduce a fresh perspective to job roles. Encourage people to look at how other businesses do things, even those in other sectors, and consider how they can be adapted or improved. According to the “Innovation in the MENA Workplace” poll, 69% state that their companies keep up-to-date with other organizations in their field and adopt best practices.
  6. Look at new ways to do things: Encourage employees to keep looking anew at the way they approach their work. Ask people whether they have considered alternative ways of working and what might be achieved by doing things differently. 78% of respondents in the “Innovation in the MENA Workplace” poll say that new ideas are encouraged and tried out.
  7. Don’t discourage: Respond enthusiastically to all ideas and never make someone offering an idea feel foolish. Give even the most apparently eccentric of ideas a chance to be aired.
  8. Be tolerant: A certain amount of risk-taking is inevitable with innovation. Allow people to learn from their mistakes. Never put off the creative flow by penalizing those whose ideas don’t work out.
  9. Reward ideation and innovation: Be among the 44% of companies that reward their employees’ creativity (according to the “Innovation in the MENA Workplace” poll). Motivate individuals or teams who come up with winning ideas by actively recognizing innovation, for example through an awards scheme. You could even demonstrate your recognition that not all ideas work out by rewarding those who just have a rich flow of suggestions, regardless of whether they are put into action at work.
  10. Implement strategy to execution: Remember, innovation is only worthwhile if it results in action. Provide the time and resources to develop and implement those ideas worth acting upon. Failure to do so not only means your firm will fail to benefit from innovation, but flow of ideas may well dry up if employees feel the process is pointless.

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