Encouraging and fostering innovation among a startup’s employees can often be one of the most important factors in accelerating a company’s growth trajectory. While its often assumed that the CEO should be the one responsible for coming up with ideas that generate growth, it is the employees that are in the best position to know what is working and what isn’t. Most successful startups recognize this and provide a space for employee’s to suggest ways that the company can continually improve.
Doing so not only encourages employees to be proactive and seek ways to improve the company, but also fosters a company culture that encourages innovation and creativity. We spoke to 5 different startup founders and asked what the methods they use for encouraging innovation among their employees, here’s what they had to say.
Image Credits: Flickr
1) Reward Innovation
Once a month each team member anonymously submit 2-4 ideas related to a previously selected subject, such as campaign optimization techniques or advertiser brand safety procedures. Then we get together over some food and brainstorm and discuss the ideas and concepts. Afterwards we vote on the most valuable idea and whoever’s idea is the winner receives some type of reward. As a result innovation is fostered by coupling reward based result after an open forum group discussion.
Tim Nichols, ExactDrive
2) Allow Project Ownership
We allow each employee to work on their own project alongside key company initiatives. Each sub-project is given a certain percentage of time each month depending on deadlines with priority tasks. We implement the employees project within our own workflows allowing them to make a real tangible difference to the business.
Robert Sturt, MPLS Network Specialist
3) Promote Autonomy
The best way I’ve found to encourage innovation within my team is to promote a sense autonomy and the ability to develop strategic thinking regarding taking on new initiatives. The second best thing I’ve found is to limit meetings – if necessary set a concrete agenda and avoid power points at all costs.
Meetings and consensus building often hinder team members from trying new things, and trying to get consensus from everyone is often the antidote to innovative approaches to problems.
Natasha Petrukhin, Rokk3r Labs
4) Encourage Risk-Taking
Encouraging and fostering innovation among employees revolves around creating a fertile environment for innovative thinking and activity. When it comes down to it, innovation is really one of the two by-products of risk-taking. Innovation is, in essence the upside – the result we all know and love. It’s finding a better way of doing things.
Failure, on the other hand, is the downside – the result we all fear and hate. To encourage innovation among employees, a leader must acknowledge both the upside and downside of risk-taking, while eliminating the fear associated with the downside.
If employees feel they’re allowed to fail properly, meaning quickly, cheaply, and for good reason, they will exercise the right amount of risk-taking and unlock better, innovative solutions and bring with them better business results!
Allen Kors, Achieve Lending
5) Embrace Failure
Employees are often afraid of making mistakes. They think that failing could jeopardize their career or discredit them. This fear can block innovation in a company. To avoid this trap, leaders should support a culture of courage for taking risks without fear of failure. Companies should embrace failure and incorporate it into a structured learning loop. A process for transforming every failure into company knowledge that can be used to foster innovation.
Maurizio Tripi, RealContacts