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What it Actually Means to be an Innovative Company

The word “innovative” is tossed around so frequently these days that it’s becoming downright ubiquitous. Every startup seems to be “innovative,” which, while this may be true for each company in its own way, the word is starting to lose its meaning. Good ideas come from everywhere in companies, from the 21-year-old intern to the 65-year-old almost retiree. Having a CEO who listens to everyone in the company is crucial to making sure good ideas don’t slip through the cracks.

At LocknCharge, we recently did a hackathon to drive internal innovation. We broke into groups of 5-6 people each, and each group had 60 minutes to brainstorm and write a presentation on a new and innovative product for LocknCharge that doesn’t currently exist… yet. We learned quickly that seeking insight from every area of the business is of utmost importance. Because of our success with in-house innovation, we thought we’d share some advice on driving innovation in your company:

  1. Encourage employees to speak up about their ideas in things like hackathons, innovation forums, or even simply 1:1 meetings. No idea should be considered outlandish, stupid, or silly. “Employees universally feel safer going with the status quo than attempting innovation, because it’s less likely to lead to visible errors. So if you want employees to experiment, they have to know that their innovative efforts will be free from repercussion,” says Micah Solomon in an article for Forbes.
  2. Leaders should practice what they preach. If you want to have employees who are innovators, they should have leaders who set a good example in that way. You should also have managers who empower their employees; two of Google’s 8 Qualities of Great Managers are that they empower their team and don’t micro-manage, and that they’re good communicators and they listen to the team.
  3. Think ahead of your competitors. It’s easy to get into your own way of doing things and not worry about the competition–however, if you are encouraging your employees to be innovative, you will always be a few steps ahead.
  4. Dare to do what’s never been done before. Taking calculated risks is all a part of business, and you never know if a failed idea could turn into something better. Take the story of Slack, for instance, which started out of a failed project and turned into a $1B company in a matter of a few years.
  5. Have an authentic company culture. Employees won’t feel motivated if they feel like they’re working somewhere phony. Work with HR to foster a company culture that feels real, and where the employees feel as much as part of the success of the company as the CEO. A survey by Deloitte in 2016 found that “millennials place a strong emphasis on their personal values when choosing a potential employer, with 56% ruling out working for certain organizations. Even if you have the best of the best applying at your company, if they don’t fit the culture you won’t see the expected returns in the long run.”
  6. Treat your employees with respect. Employees who don’t feel like they are respected are less likely to come forward with new ideas; and they might just leave and take their ideas and talents somewhere they do.

At LocknCharge, we are proud to call ourselves an innovative company – and were recently recognized as Madison’s Most Innovative Company 2018!

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