Great innovation is typically seen as coming from individuals who are naturally gifted with creative minds. It’s really quite appealing really – the notion that gifted innovators are sewn into the fabric of an organization or plucked from the market like Honeycrisp apples. My latest belief is that the cultural makeup of an organization to be innovative doesn’t come about by chance, and can’t be done without a few key actions.
- You need to hire the right people. Don’t hire for skills; hire for values. You want to find people who will work hard (motivated), ask questions (curious), and shoot for the stars (risk-takers). Associational thinking is obviously important here – creative people are able to find connections between things that most people miss.
- Support and hire leaders who set the right standards and are role-models for innovation. Senior managers need to ask the tough questions in meetings, take on the difficult problems challenge groupthink.
- Develop incentives that encourage divergent thinking and creative solutions. Daniel Pink has shown us that it’s not just about monetary incentives, so be creative here. Give people reasonable pay, provide them with a chance to be self-governing, provide them with tools to master their domain and allow them to follow their passions and fulfill their values. Someone came up with a great idea at your company today and saying “wow, that’s great!” is a fine reward if you’re kindergarten teacher, providing them with a chance to drive their ideas to execution shows your commitment to innovation. Shine a spotlight on innovation and make coming up with the next big idea tantamount to Olympic gold.