5 creative ways to foster internal innovation
Why do companies innovate?
Companies choose to innovate for a variety of reasons. From expanding into new market opportunities to improving operational efficiency, the introduction of innovation has the power to completely transform an organisation.
What are the ways a company can innovate?
Just as there is a variety of reasons driving companies to innovate, there exists a multitude of methods to foster innovation. The concept of open innovation dictates that organisations can find innovation from anywhere, be it external partners, universities, startups or right at home with their employees.
It's noteworthy that approximately 60% of organizations consider their employees to be their most important source of innovation. Tapping into employee innovation has the power to completely transform an organization.
However, sourcing innovations from your employees can present several critical challenges, often requiring creative solutions. That's why we thought it would be worthwhile to compile a list of inventive strategies to encourage your employees to innovate and spur better internal innovation. So let’s think outside of the box to drive employee innovation, after all, isn't that what innovation is truly all about?
Make your employees intrapreneurs
We are sure you have heard of entrepreneur, but have you ever heard the term intrapreneur?
What exactly is an intrapreneur? Put simply intrapreneurs are highly valuable employees to an organization. They are highly motivated employees who are constantly developing innovative solutions and ideas for your organization, adding value and driving the economic development of your business.
While some individuals may naturally exhibit intrapreneurial traits, it doesn't imply that everyone in your organization lacks the potential to become an intrapreneur. In fact, any employee has the capacity to develop intrapreneurial skills, and you have the power to facilitate this through specific programs aimed at boosting this skillset.
What are the key steps to turning your employees into intrapreneurs:
- Provide employees with autonomy to ideate and experiment with innovative ideas
- Give them the time and the space to do it
- Consider how you can develop incentives and rewards that will motivate your employee to innovate
- Communicate the value of intrapreneurship to your employees effectively
Time and time again diversity has been shown to be an incredibly critical variable in every facet of business strategy. Diversity in Innovation is crucial and the statistics prove it:
- Companies with above-average diversity on their management teams report innovation revenue that was 19 percentage points higher than that of companies with below-average leadership diversity - Boston Consulting Group, 2018
- Gender-diverse teams were found to make better business decisions 73% of the time, while teams including a range of ages and different geographic locations saw better decisions 87% of the time - Inc. Magazine, 2022
- Companies with inclusive cultures are six times more innovative and agile - Deloitte, 2022
- Companies spearheading diversity are also 35% more likely to achieve better business returns - Deloitte, 2022
It is evident that encouraging diversity in your internal innovation project is crucial for advancing your innovation objective for a number of reasons. Employees from different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences bring unique perspectives to the table. Furthermore, diversity in roles within an internal innovation program is also crucial. If innovation relies solely on corporate leadership, it is destined to fail. As we all know all too well different viewpoints lead to more creative solutions that enable teams to tackle challenges from different angles ultimately leading to better innovations.
Consider your recruiting practices
No culture can truly be innovative without great people. While innovation managers often think about their employee’s potential at the moment when initiating an innovation program, it's equally important to consider how they can continually nurture innovation by cultivating a thriving culture of innovation. A significant aspect of this is developing a recruiting process that actively seeks out and integrates individuals who embody innovation and creativity.
Consider these key ways you can search for innovative people in your recruiting process:
- Targeted Job Postings: Craft job descriptions that explicitly emphasize the importance of innovation, creativity, and a willingness to think outside the box. This will attract candidates who are naturally inclined toward innovation.
- Behavioural Interviews: During the interview process, ask candidates about their past experiences with innovation. Inquire about specific instances where they proposed new ideas, overcame challenges, or implemented creative solutions.
- Skills Assessment: Administer assessments or tests designed to evaluate a candidate's problem-solving skills, creativity, and adaptability. These assessments can help identify individuals with strong innovation potential.
- Cultural Fit Assessment: Evaluate how well a candidate aligns with your organization's culture of innovation. Consider their ability to work collaboratively, adapt to change, and embrace experimentation.
Host internal hackathons
For years, organizations have been harnessing the power of Hackathons to introduce innovative solutions into their organizations.
The term "hackathon" was coined by Sun Microsystems in 2005, and the popularity of hackathons began to grow rapidly in the late 2000s. One of the earliest examples of a company-sponsored hackathon was held by NASA in 2011. The hackathon was designed to generate new ideas for using NASA data to solve real-world problems.
While organizations often run external hackathons, in recent years companies have been looking at ways they can run hackathons internally to spur employee innovation.
In fact, some of the most prominent global organisations regularly run internal hackathons to drive innovation:
- Google: Google I/O Hackathon, the Google for India Hackathon, and the Google Cloud Hackathon.
- Facebook: Facebook Hackathon and the Facebook F8 Hackathon.
- Microsoft: Microsoft Hackathon and the Microsoft Build Hackathon.
- Amazon: Amazon Web Services (AWS) Hackathon and the Amazon Alexa Hackathon.
- Apple: Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) Hackathon and the Apple Design Awards Hackathon.
How do you run an internal hackathon:
- Define your goals. What do you want to achieve with your hackathon? Are you looking to generate new ideas or solve specific problems? Once you know your goals, you can start to plan your event accordingly.
- Choose a format. Hackathons can come in all shapes and sizes. Do you want a 24-hour event, a 48-hour event, or something longer? Do you want teams to work on specific challenges, or do you want them to be free to come up with their own ideas? Decide on a format that will work best for your company and your goals.
- Promote the event. Once you have a plan in place, start promoting your hackathon to your employees. Get people excited about the event and encourage them to form teams. You can promote the event through internal communication channels.
- Provide resources. Hackathon participants need access to the resources they need to be successful. This may include things like computers, software, and mentors. You should also provide food and drinks for participants.
- Judge the submissions. At the end of the hackathon, teams will present their projects to a panel of judges. The judges will select the winners based on criteria such as innovation, creativity, and feasibility. You should have a clear judging rubric in place so that everyone knows what to expect.
Build the right resources and support
Now, let's consider the optimal structure that your employees need to drive innovation. There are several things you need to consider here.
According to PWC's 23rd Annual Global CEO Survey, more than half of CEOs of more advanced organizations agreed that their upskilling programs led to greater innovation and accelerating digital transformation.
Consider what internal training structures you have in place to foster innovation. What is lacking? And, what are your employees asking for?
For employees who are not so familiar with the concept of innovation, getting them up to speed through training seminars is a perfect way to spur internal innovation.
In addition, consider developing a mentoring program. Pair up experienced employees with less experienced employees to help them develop their innovation skills. Mentors can provide guidance and support to help mentees come up with and develop their innovative ideas.
Create an innovation fund.
What kind of internal resources do you have to be able to get their ideas off the ground? Consider setting up a dedicated innovation fund that employees will be able to use specifically to finance their innovative ideas.
Having a dedicated innovation fund will ensure that employees feel secure that if they have winning ideas they will be able to see them through from ideation to implementation.
Driving employee innovation for success
Fostering internal innovation is a multifaceted endeavor driven by various motivations and empowered through diverse strategies. While external innovation holds significance, internal innovation is equally vital. Within your organization lies a treasure trove of ideas waiting to be discovered. There are numerous ways to stimulate internal innovation, and sometimes, a touch of creativity is all you need.