Innovation is at the top of every business leader’s to-do list. It figured prominently in CIO agenda predictions for 2019—including those from Gartner, Forrester, IDC, and others. For employees, innovation is fast becoming an expectation. But what does it mean to “be innovative”? What can employees do to foster it? Here are four ways to begin:
1 Participate in the dialogue. Many factors drive innovation, particularly technology and autonomy. Do you have access to the right tools and knowledge? Does your company provide you with the freedom to experiment and fail? When you are asked for feedback, don’t hesitate to provide it. And don’t wait until you are asked—share your experiences with managers, both positive and negative. They cannot change what they aren’t aware of.
2 Find out what your company expects of you. In a January Harvard Business Review article, Harvard professor and senior associate dean Gary P. Pisano points out that innovative cultures are hard to create and sustain. “A tolerance for failure requires an intolerance for incompetence,” Pisano writes. “A willingness to experiment requires rigorous discipline.” For employees, that means they must gain a clear understanding of their responsibilities and be accountable for their actions.
3 Build your tech skills. In an innovation study report by software firm TIBCO, respondents note that nearly 41 percent of their effort is based on identifying and deploying innovative technology. In addition, the report highlights specific technologies that are foundational in digital transformation/innovation strategies—including cloud, business intelligence (BI) and analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. People may drive innovation, but technology clearly plays a critical role in its success. Find out what training opportunities your organization provides and take advantage of them.
4 Look for opportunities to collaborate with colleagues and with other departments. Think about who else should be involved in an initiative—including entire departments or colleagues who have relevant specialized knowledge of a subject or specific technology. Reach out for what you need to make your project successful.
Despite popular belief, innovation isn’t something that just happens—rather, it’s the result of significant effort by people and organizations. For employees, innovation means approaching work in an entirely new way, and adopting new behaviors such as curiosity, agility, resiliency, self-confidence, insightfulness, and discipline. With these four suggestions, you can make a start.
Jen is an award-winning journalist who writes about workplace productivity and technology for Vitalyst. She believes in the power of using plain language, especially when writing about technology, and lists “achieving and enabling clarity” among her life goals.