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Ways to Cultivate an Innovative Workplace

Multiethnic Group of People Planning Ideas

Innovation is a buzzword thrown around a lot to describe new ideas, developments and growth. But what does it really entail to be an innovative workplace?

Before we can become innovators with the full force of our ideas behind us, it is worth recognising what innovation is, what it requires, and perhaps most telling, what is preventing the majority of workplaces from becoming innovation hubs.

Innovation: Something new or different introduced; the act of innovating; introduction of new things or methods.

By its very definition, innovation is an active and energetic process. A successful act of innovation requires an environment that facilitates these acts of change, movement forward and the exploration of different possibilities. It also requires the drive and focus of the people behind it to properly facilitate and negotiate what has previously worked with the challenges of the unknown.

So, what is preventing your workplace from becoming an innovation power house? Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all answer to the problem of a potentially stagnant workplace. However, we’ve explored a few common reasons below that could explain why your office may be stuck in a rut, and what you can do to begin remedying it.

Your workplace isn’t innovation prepared or innovation friendly

More and more evidence is coming out to suggest the downsides of the open plan office. [1] Although open offices were first introduced to foster a symbolic sense of organisational mission, they have been found to be damaging to workers’ attention span, productivity, satisfaction, and most important for innovation, creativity.

In order for us to reach those moments of inspiration and creativity, we need quiet to be able to join the dots and allow the solution to present itself via our unique thinking patterns. In our modern workplace, this type of quiet time or creative thinking space is not only in short supply, it is often not encouraged in favour of meetings, collaborative thinking spaces and the most obvious culprit, the open plan office.

Remedy: Consider the way your office space is laid out. Are the departments that work together regularly close enough to one another? Do your managers have space and time to think creatively about projects that require special attention? It could be as simple as moving your office around to find the right fit, or introducing new policies that steer away from an open office plan. Set a period to trial the new solution and have some measures already in place to monitor its effectiveness.

Distractions are ruling the office

While innovation is all about new technologies and capturing these for more productivity, often multitasking and the presence of varying distractions can actually hurt our ability to think solidly and creatively. In a recent study, more than half of the employers surveyed said that the biggest distraction at work comes from employees using their mobile phones, with 44% saying the same about employees surfing the Internet.[2]

So, how to we calm the impulses that direct us to move and fidget while at work to be more focused and single task orientated? While there are many ways to discourage office distractions, often the change has to come from a management level and become part of the culture that encourages an innovative and focused working environment.

Remedy: Encourage focus on high payoff activities in the morning for improved performance and output can be a relatively easy remedy to the problem of office distractions. Encourage your teams to turn off their emails in the morning to focus on imperative tasks for the day. Allow calls to go to voicemail before lunch to limit distractions. Foster an environment of mutual respect for each workers’ time and tasks.

Structure is doing more harm than good

Structure and process is important in any workplace. It ensures things run smoothly and everyone has a set of expectations about the environment that is based on professionalism and personal responsibility. However, there is a point when focusing on structure as opposed to focusing on ideas and people hurts the business and operations more than it supports it.

By looking at the flow of information from everyone involved in the business up to the decision makers at the top, it becomes that everyone, no matter their position, can be an innovative force and a major contributor to getting an edge over the competition.

Remedy: Invite your people to be innovators

It may seem obvious, but people need to feel that they are permitted to present ideas in front of management. To encourage innovation in your organisation, invite your staff to present their ideas for consideration. Outline that even though many ideas won’t be implemented, emphasise that each idea will be listened to. Reconvene with your staff if any idea will progress to the next stage and encourage them to maintain ownership over it through their continued involvement.

Keen to read more about innovation success stories? Click here to read a recent blog piece about Uber’s dedication to innovation in a fast-paced business environment.

[1] http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/the-open-office-trap

[2] http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/8098-distractions-kiling-productivity.html