4 Steps to a Culture of Business Innovation

If you have always done it that way, it is probably wrong.” – Charles Kettering

As profound shifts take place in the modern workplace, entrepreneurs are finally recognizing that the traditional way isn’t always the best way. Rather than employees who put their heads down and step in line, entrepreneurs now seek bold innovators to join their ranks. Rather than quiet and obedient cultures, we want flexibility and open communication between team members. In order to achieve this, there are four aspects we can begin to cultivate in our businesses.

Diverse recruitment

It’s not uncommon for startups to draw from schools like Harvard or MIT talent pools to build their teams. But despite the value these candidates offer, the talent drawn from here can lack serious diversity. Rather than a workforce with varying backgrounds, strengths and perspectives, it’s all too easy to end up with a uniform cast of people who fit a specific mold. As research has shown time and time again, this uniformity doesn’t benefit your bottom line or your startup’s innovation.

Thus, it may be time to branch out and find new talent pools from which to draw. Expanding your search to a wide range of universities and other sources will yield a much greater opportunity for diversity. Companies might also advertise in new publications, send reps to a variety of business conferences, or network with professional organizations that represent the groups that their organization lacks. In addition, branching out to new social platforms and communicating their employer brand will help companies attract talent based on similar values, not similar backgrounds. Make a long-term commitment to diversity, and your company will see the results.

Related: The Benefits of Encouraging Creativity and Innovation in the Workplace

Future-oriented attitude

It’s no secret that innovative companies already have a good grasp on the future: including what’s coming next, what consumers will desire and what may be possible with technological advancements. This ongoing future focus is what keeps a startup on its feet, always looking to dip a toe in new waters and find new sources of inspiration. For this attitude to develop, it’s critical to first know your foundations, as a startup must know its roots and it’s big “why.”

Take Uber for example, whose mission statement is to provide “transportation as reliable as running water, everywhere for everyone.” While on the surface, Uber is just a simple ride app, the company’s mission statement brings a deeper meaning, portraying transportation as a life necessity they provide.

Your startup needs to dig deep enough to find your “why,” in order to showcase your brand from this perspective.

Once this “why” is established, it’s easier to dream big and begin paving the way for future projects and partnerships. Have a solid base and a defined value system that guides management’s decision-making, and your startup’s future can be conceived.

Open communication

There’s nothing that squashes business innovation faster than a timid workforce. Innovation here starts with management, who must continuously foster a culture of open communication on a day-to-day basis. Management needs to demonstrate that they are open and available, willing to genuinely listen and able to provide useful feedback.

To do this, managers can designate office hours where employees can schedule one-on-one meetings or group brainstorming sessions. It’s also critical to openly address problems rather than avoid them. Over time, this routine naturally starts to rub off on your employees, who will feel less inhibited. When it’s truly safe to open up and pitch an idea or hash out a problem with team members, a culture of open communication becomes the norm. Defenses come down and trust can be built amongst your startup’s team.

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Effective collaboration

Going hand-in-hand with open communication, effective collaboration is key for many obvious reasons. Startups need an efficient collaboration model to execute work on time and on budget. With more eyes on a problem, it will undoubtedly get solved faster.

Implementing collaboration tools (whether those be software or any other kind) is key to helping your employees avoid frustration and stay productive. Cross-functional meetings can provide additional chances for team members to spark up new ideas and find innovative solutions. Studies show a simple change in office design can even facilitate this positive shift toward collaboration.

We know that innovation fuels sustainable business growth. The question is, how and when will we take the steps necessary to invite business innovation into our own startup culture?

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