Creativity_in_ProgressInnovation is on the minds of any business leaders looking to the future of their business, and we all understand that innovation is the one thing that sets apart all great leaders from simple managers. But how many of us know how to create a business culture that breeds innovation into everyday processes and activities? How many of us know how to tap into our workforce, energize each employee, and tap into their collective creativity? Judging by the Google stats on monthly searches for “what is innovation”, many of us are still struggling with step 1 – simply defining innovation.

Our article, 5 Traits of Top Business Innovators, delves into the definition of innovation and what traits top innovation leaders have ion common to set you on the right path. In this post we will explain 5 actionable steps you can take to begin building a business culture of innovation so that each team member can contribute to the success of your organisation.

1. Ask Questions

The very first thing you can do to build up innovation is begin asking questions – and encourage your workforce to do the same. Open the door not for complaints, but for genuine curiosity. Invite yourself and everyone on the team to question everything from established rules to schedules to daily activities, and you may begin to see that some operations are in dire need of upgrades, changes, or even deletion. Just by the simple act of asking and inviting questions, you will begin to build a business culture that thinks differently – which is vital to any form of innovation.

2. Network

Reach out to other business leaders, startups, and companies in your field and in complimentary fields. In an earlier blog post, we spoke about the importance of looking outside your industry for innovative ideas, but you can also reach out to others to build a network. This network will become one you can tap into for inspiration, and even help for launching new ideas if the need arises. Begin with seminars in the area, and make personal connections through business interviews, coffee, and even office-to-office tours.

3. Try Things

Some of the top innovators today like Google and Apple are notorious for trying many things and only selling a few. Thomas Edison is famous for developing the light bulb, but while he was attempting it, he received ridicule from all of his peers because he failed so many times. His famous quote “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” epitomises the attitude of a true innovator – try, fail, try something else, fail…and keep going until something sticks.

4. Plan, Do, Review

One thing that is slowing down and even killing many businesses today is their inability to act quickly. Startups are overthrowing giants in record time, and mega-corporations are struggling to stay alive simply because of this one simple concept: they are unable to plan and then DO. The process of planning new operations or product ideas in many large organisations is: plan, send to a board, send to holders, review, argue, re-plan, discuss details…. Whenever they get around to believing they have a “perfect” plan and are ready to execute, the moment has passed or someone else has already run away with the idea. Organisations MUST learn to plan imperfectly, put their ideas to practice, and then review the results to adjust along the way.

This is not the same as cutting corners – note that you want the next great ideas to come through your company successfully, so give each idea the proper attention and care when executing to get a true idea of whether or not it will work!

5. Study Associations and Patterns

The final “step” to building and innovative business culture is not truly an action. In fact, you want to step back and stop moving for a bit while you study patterns in your organisation. In the book Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner discuss many patterns that are seemingly unconnected, and show us new ways to see connections. This is a good practice for business leaders as well, because phenomena in the workforce are very often related in ways that are impossible to see right away. By taking a step back once in a while to really study trends in sales, employee engagement, market perception, and more, you may make connections you never would have thought of – and be able to correct situations that need it much more effectively.

These steps to build business culture are never perfected, but are practiced by all top innovators of our world. Learn to use them, embrace failure, correct course, and you will build an unshakable competitive advantage in your market.