There’s been a lot of talk about the need for innovation in our businesses for a while now. Whether kickstarted by the changes suddenly brought on by the pandemic, encouraged by the growing need for a green revolution, or just a symptom of the ongoing digital revolution, innovation is rightly being recognised as more important than ever for gaining and maintaining a competitive edge, regardless of industry and sector.
Truthfully, innovation has always been essential to survival and growth. Just compare the fates of Blockbuster and Netflix, for example, if you want to see the difference that innovation makes. Change or die, indeed! (See also: Yahoo vs Google; IBM vs Apple; MySpace vs Facebook; Atari vs Nintendo… the list goes on.)
But can innovation really be nurtured, encouraged, or boosted through your internal comms strategy? Well, I believe so. And here’s how, in just three easy steps…
1. Encourage cross-departmental communication
It’s pretty well documented that inter-departmental collaborating can form a breeding ground for new ideas. It makes perfect sense that people from different departments and with different viewpoints can provide different ideas and, potentially, spark innovation. I wrote only last month about how diversity is good for creativity.
Making this kind of collaboration quick and easy (through the likes of 365, Slack, Trello, Workplace etc.) will facilitate and encourage the kinds of conversations, networking and idea-sharing that you need for innovation to grow. And, because it’s all online, working locations and work patterns don’t have to be a barrier.
“The calculus of innovation is really quite simple: knowledge drives innovation, innovation drives productivity, productivity drives economic growth.”
- William Brody, Scientist
2. Nurture psychological safety and trust in your people
For innovation to happen, people need to feel comfortable to share their ideas, thoughts and opinions. Sadly, it’s still hugely common for employees to hold back ideas and suggestions for fear of being judged, mocked or ridiculed for them. This has to change if innovation is to flourish, and that starts with building a culture of trust and psychological safety from the top down.
Senior leaders need to use internal comms platforms to start discussions, spark collaborations and invite thoughts and opinions – all without the risk of ridicule. Contributions should be recognised, and contributors praised, and not just when the idea or opinion is considered worthy or ground-breaking.
The more your people feel able to question things, and not just accept everything as a done deal or finished article, the more new-idea-generation will take place.
“Innovation is the unrelenting drive to break the status quo and develop anew where few have dared to go.”
- Steven Jeffes, Marketing & business expert
3. Be transparent and share information
For people to challenge and question, to make suggestions and offer ideas, they need to have access to, and visibility of, the source information, concepts and plans. Businesses that like to silo information or keep new concepts only to those in the product development team, for example, are stifling innovation. Giving your people sight and understanding of your ideas in the making, your strategic goals, and your updates on what’s working (and what isn’t) will enable and empower them to share their feedback and ideas.
“If you look at history, innovation doesn’t come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect.”
- Steven Johnson, Science author
If you’re not sure that you’re maximising the opportunities for innovation in your business, health-check your comms now to see where improvements can be made.
...Or you can be the next Blockbuster Video if you prefer.