Innovation is a driving force in modern business. While we haven’t reached the space-age era of the Jetsons quite yet, technology is constantly evolving. With each new update or improvement, businesses rush to catch up. We strive to meet consumer expectations and stand out above competitors. By fostering creativity within our own businesses, we stand a greater chance of achieving these goals.
Small businesses have few barriers to the innovation process because the distance between employees and CEOs is short. In large companies, however, employees must wade through multiple levels of supervisors and middle managers before ideas reach the top. This results in forgotten suggestions for a product or service change, resigning would be intrapreneurs to the status quo of the workforce.
So, as a large company, how do you encourage the social innovation mindset and stimulate creativity and innovation? We have a few ideas for you.
Make changes to company infrastructure and designate innovation champions
Most large businesses choose to operate under a hierarchical management system, wherein there are many tiers of management layered throughout the company. This makes it difficult to conceive new ideas and pursue them, as employees are working in controlled settings with specific workflow directions. This workflow is overseen by a supervisor or manager who may not have the authority to give an employee the go-ahead to begin a new project.
A flat management structure is one solution to this problem. As the name suggests, a flat business model eliminates the levels of management within a company, giving employees more responsibilities within their roles. Not all companies thrive under flat models, however, and if a chaotic atmosphere is a concern, there is an alternative to improve innovation. Designate an innovative champion to which employees report creative ideas.
Innovative champions are given the authority to work alongside employees who conceive new ideas to help the company succeed. By fostering this creativity and innovation, champions allow supervisors and managers to continue running a tight ship, while all employees (including management) can take part in the innovation process.
Provide intrapreneurship opportunities and incentives
If “innovative champion” seems too unstructured a role, there is also the option of beginning an intrapreneur project. Just as an entrepreneur takes on the task of creating and overseeing a new business, an intrapreneur is placed in charge or creating and overseeing creativity and innovation. Rather than overseeing all innovative ideas within your company, intrapreneurs are selected to participate in individual projects.
For example, an intrapreneur might be placed in charge of finding a new way to deliver information at formal company meetings. Or, an intrapreneur might be tasked with designing a new approach to marketing a product. This social innovation mindset pays off.
When employees do well, a reward system incentivizes the intrapreneur initiative and encourages other employees to take part as well.
Make inclusion a priority
In a large company, it’s easy to get lost among the masses. Innovation isn’t selective; a creative idea can be gifted to anyone. This makes it important for large businesses to encourage ideas and creativity in all employees from every sector and department. If there’s a project or concept to pursue, putting it to the entire company is one way to get everybody involved.
Whether you design it as a friendly company contest, or simply invite all employees to participate in finding the solution you seek – this form of inclusion will leave everybody feeling valued and striving to contribute.
Embrace new technology, embrace the process
One of the problems big businesses face while striving to improve creativity and innovation is embracing new technology. New technology can be temperamental and expensive, leaving many large companies wondering if it’s worth the effort. However, technology has become essential to the success of businesses across a myriad of industries, and as technology advances, so too does the opportunity to grow with it.
Companies who lag on technological change risk missing out on potential innovation involving those upgrades. Fortunately, there are opportunities through social innovation projects and to improve this aspect of your business with less risk. Some companies, like Sandbox Centre, rent out spaces where new technology can be tested before investing on a grand scale.
Learn more about fostering innovation with sandbox centre
Sandbox Centre is an Ontario-based organization, which connects businesses with relevant and beneficial resources. Our team works closely with clients to help nurture innovation and entrepreneurship. By helping Canadian companies grow, we help our local economy grow.
For more information on Sandbox Centre and innovation support opportunities, visit us on the 2nd floor at 24 Maple Avenue in Barrie, Ontario and join the Sandbox community on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Keep an eye out on our events page for coming B Corp & Social Enterprise events. We’re partnered with SENCO an initiative of Georgian College’s Centre for Changemaking & Social Innovation (CCSI) who inspire, connect and equip those looking to engage in social enterprise to face cultural, environmental and social challenges in our region. Check out their events page for sessions like Social Enterprise 101 and screenings of the Social Shift movie.