Increasingly companies are encouraging employees to think outside the box and become innovators and entrepreneurs, rather than merely following a set of orders to complete assigned tasks.

How to create innovation

Google’s Quest for Employee Innovation

Back in 2013 Forbes looked at one such company working to create innovation in the workplace: Google. Google is considering one of the world’s leading organizations, and their strength may very well lie in their ability to encourage creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit among employees.

At the time the Forbes piece was published Google had an employee pool of about 30,000, making it significantly smaller than companies like Apple and Exxon Mobile. Laszlo Bock, Senior Vice President of Google’s People Operations, told Forbes the company tries to create as many channels for employee expression as possible. He went on to say Google tries to recognize that different people and ideas will come about in different ways.

Some of the unique ways Google works to foster innovation include Google Cafes, which are places where employees and encouraged to collaborate, leading to the sparking of potential productive conversations. Employees are also able to email directly any of the company’s leaders.

Google Moderator is a tool designed by the company’s engineers, with the idea being that when people have tech talks or speak at meetings, anyone in the audience can then ask a question and people can vote for the ones they’d most like to see answered. The goal with Google Moderator is that people can discover ideas organized by topic, event, and meetings.

Engineers at Google can spend 20 percent of their work week on projects that personally interest them, which interestingly enough is actually how Google Moderator came to be. Other methods include weekly staff meetings where employees can directly interact with company executives, and FixIts, which are 24-hour marathon sessions where employees stop work on all other projects and devote all of their energy to the solving of one particular problem.

Innovation Through Training and DevelopmentInnovation Through Training and Development

If you’re a company leader who wants to bring more innovation from your employees, but you’re struggling to understand how it can be done, you can take notes from Google, but you can also incorporate a culture of innovation within employee training and development. Studies show that the companies that have a thriving, innovative culture are also the ones most invested in employee training and development programs.

On a macro-level, innovation-driven training should encourage critical thinking, collaboration, questioning, and opportunities for employees to provide feedback.

Consider these specific tips when creating training for an innovation-driven workplace as well:

  • Leadership training is a crucial driver of an innovative spirit among employees. By providing not just basic skills training, but also leadership-driven development, you’ll allow your employees to feel like they have a greater purpose within an organization, which tends to inspire creativity. Deliver training that doesn’t just cover the hard skills required for leadership, but also those soft skills that also tend to intersect with an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit.
  • Deliver training that encourages internal promotion. Employees are not only going to be more innovative but also more engaged overall if they feel like there’s room for advancement within an organization, so always create training programs that build on one another with the ultimate goal of giving employees the foundation for moving upward within the organization.
  • Training and development are great places to foster critical thinking, which is a primary component of an innovative workforce. To create critical thinking in training, add elements like case studies that pose situations to employees and ask them to brainstorm their own solutions, and then include collaborative features so they can discuss said solutions with other employees. Leave training assessments open-ended, and reward failure as long as it’s used as part of a great learning experience.
  • If you have a globally dispersed or remote workforce, you can encourage innovation through the tools provided with a learning management system. Hold weekly webinars or chat sessions where employees “come together” to share their ideas and thoughts, or include video chats within your e-Learning.
  • Provide means for employees to offer their input and feedback, not just as it pertains to the day-to-day operations of an office, but also concerning training. Include employee feedback and individual difference as part of the training development process, and gather and utilize feedback after the delivery of training. As well as gathering feedback, follow up on it. Employees are encouraged to be innovators when they feel like they’re not only being asked for their input, but also that it’s being heard. In the particular framework of training, this can mean not only asking for feedback post-training and development, but also connecting with employees to let them know their feedback has been received, and how it will play into future training.
  • Train employees on corporate values. All too often training is focused only on skills and compliance, and it drops the ball when it comes to corporate values. Innovation-driven companies and workforces tend to be those that maintain concepts of their organization having a higher purpose. One way to reinforce this is by extensively training on corporate values.
  • Create personalized learning paths. Nothing stifles creativity and out-of-the-box thinking faster than one-size-fits-all training. Instead,  use e-Learning as an affordable and efficient way to create personalized learning paths that will leave employees feeling inspired and motivated.
  • Innovation and learning go hand-in-hand, so make your organization one that thrives on a sense of constant and continuous learning. Research shows that those businesses with a strong culture of learning also tend to maintain one of innovation. Continuous learning can be made more attainable and reasonable with manageable byte-sized training delivery.
  • Make training and learning feel informal, rather than making your training a rigid experience with a list of must-dos. Make it about learning for learning’s sake. Informalize the process with self-paced learning and the option to utilize provided multimedia supplemental resources. Gamification is also a valuable tool to informalize learning and promote a sense of innovative spirit from employees.

While Google has come up with great ways to foster innovation and creative thinking among employees, smaller businesses can achieve a similar result through the use of a learning management system and how they provide training.

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