7 Tips to Foster Innovation

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Marco Tempst, the @VirtualMagician at Guardian Activate Summit in New YorkInspired by The Guardian Activate Summit in New York, here are 7 vital elements for spurring innovation within your organization.

1. Start at the Top.

Leaders must lead. Period. Innovation will only occur when  leaders inspire people to achieve more than they thought possible, and reward audacity and magnificent failure when it is aimed towards something worthwhile.

2. Align with Things that Matter

According to Reid Hoffman, co-founder at LinkedIn, businesses must match their for-profit activities with their for-good missions. People will do more if the work matters, and do a better job. Customers will reward you, too.

3. Re-frame Priorities

Think of any standard consumer good company (like Nokia as an example). The second that the priority becomes to sell more of the once-innovative product instead of developing the next generation of innovative product(s), the organization starts its fall from grace. Always keep core priorities like innovation, audacity, and positive impact at the forefronts of EVERYBODY’S priority list.

4. Be Open and Instill a Culture of Openness

By creating a welcoming and receiving organization, people will be more likely to speak out, share ideas, and take risks. According to Reid Hoffman, it gives people “the freedom to develop, the freedom to speak, and the freedom to act.

5. Rethink Consistently

Clay Shirky said that is is important that organizations take the time to “rethink their business from the ground up“. This doesn’t mean changing business activities all the time, but it does mean take the time to analyze your business model, review processes, and identify areas for improvement. HBR recently featured an Ideacast that highlighted how one executive asks some top-tier managers to re-envision the business from the ground up on an annual basis. While not all suggestions are realistically actionable, there is always some good insight (and development) that comes from the process.

6. Avoid Processes, Encourage Mistakes

According to Clay Shirky, the keynote presenter, “defending against past mistakes creates future mistakes“. All to often, as organizations grow they develop processes that decrease motivation, hinder innovation, and create more bad then they prevent. Resist the temptation to put in processes that prevent past mistakes from happening again. Instead, create rewards for people that create good, even if they fail from time to time.

7. Suspend Disbelief

You and your team can do more than you think is possible. Don’t assume you know what is and isn’t possible. Instead, suspend disbelief and promote innovation of things that seem impossible.

What else should organizations do to foster innovation?