5 Tips to Encourage Innovation

5 Tips to Encourage Innovation

When Apple introduced the first iPhone in 2007, the product had its share of skeptics, and some people were sure the touch display was a non-starter. It’s easy to look back and laugh because it’s now so obvious how that phone changed our lives. At the time, however, we were mostly satisfied with our Blackberries and Treos and PalmPilots and didn’t know we needed — or even wanted — something better. But Apple knew it. Apple knew its customers better than we knew ourselves.

Truly innovative companies gear the majority of their efforts towards solving a problem their targeted market segment is experiencing — whether that market knows it or not. That’s easier said than done, but there are steps you can take to keep your team and your company innovative. Here are some tips to help your organization become a powerhouse of innovation.

Prioritize leadership over bureaucracy

Leaders who prioritize innovation over budgets or conventions, and have a clear idea of what they want to achieve, are the ones who are really able to get things done. If people in leadership positions settle for second-best solutions or restrict the direction of creative discussions that could improve how the product fulfills its users’ needs, they won’t get the innovative results they’re after.

Develop a distaste for stagnancy

Innovation occurs naturally when the status quo is no longer good enough to solve a problem in the marketplace. When the people in decision-making positions conclude that they’ve reached a state of perfection with their product in its current state, they are in reality missing out on an opportunity to make it even better.

Pool the talents of your team

One person cannot single-handedly shoulder the responsibility of devising and delivering an end-to-end solution that is both effective and innovative. This is where the role of a team comes into play: Collective brainpower fosters a bigger, diversified idea pool in which a team can become truly free to innovate. When people occupying different roles can share their experiences and perspectives in a single forum, new solutions will naturally arise. (For more on this concept, check out our post about cognitive diversity.)

Encourage open communication

Inhibition and innovation are like oil and water, so if the team or points of contact aren’t confident enough to assert themselves, and they easily sway opinions to please superiors or clients, innovation is difficult to achieve. By creating an environment where creative expression is actively encouraged, you’ll find that even the most reserved members of your team will contribute more often, while productivity levels of both internal and external discussions will soar.

Ensure innovations are actionable and solution-oriented

Creatively minded people can easily become impassioned when justifying their ideas. While enthusiasm is always great, it should be tempered with cautious reflection so as to avoid glossing over the logistical pitfalls while pursuing a higher concept. Furthermore, it’s important to take a step back and really ask if a given innovation is truly fixing a problem, rather than complicating a system that wasn’t broken to begin with. Once you’ve identified the problem, tap the specific talent on your team to tackle it.

When discussing innovation, it can be easy for teams to lose focus. Daily tasks and urgent issues easily get in the way. Assertive, visionary leadership is critical for ensuring that things stay on track. Encourage your team to express themselves, and don’t punish constructive disagreement when it arises. Instead, steer the conversation back towards addressing the needs of your target market, and harness that passion to synthesize a truly innovative solution.

Striking the right balance between these factors doesn’t have to be a mystery–at Axioned, we keep these tips top of mind and attempt to check off these boxes every day. By keeping the above advice in mind, you can, too.


Sources of inspiration:

  1. Forbes, 5 Ways Leaders Enable Innovation In Their Teams
  2. Business Insider, 6 Key Characteristics of Innovative Startups Teams
  3. AdAge, How to Grow Marketing Innovation In-House
  4. Bloomberg Philanthropies, Helping Cities Rethink Issues, Reimagine Outcomes, and Capitalize on Bold New Possibilities