Question: How do you actively encourage innovation in your company (e.g., along the lines of the famed Google 80/20 program)? Why does it work well?
Make Sure Your Culture Drives Innovation
"We encourage innovation by fostering an environment where ideas are shared openly and tested regularly. Aside from our annual summit where we invite all employees to have a hand in company strategy, we have a formal process where employees can submit ideas in a Google document. Sharing and testing of ideas is key. We strive for tests that are measurable, repeatable and actionable."
Use a Comment Box
"We have a comment box that we check weekly for new innovative ideas, problems with our product, complaints, etc. Our product is mainly web-based, so we also welcome ideas from employees outside the tech team. We make sure to let everyone know they each have a feeling of ownership in the company."
Build a Culture of Experimentation
"Teams members in every function should be testing ideas. If they don't know why or how, teach them. Explain why smart companies are built in a way that allow for failure. Help them understand they can't create a culture of experimentation or innovation without sometimes invalidating ideas (read: fail). Inspire them to want to test out their assumptions quickly, learn and iterate."
Focus on Customers
"We've found many techniques to foster creativity and innovation and the linchpin has been a relentless focus on what customers need. The more time people spend putting themselves in our customers shoes, the more they identify new opportunities to help. The core of our innovation comes from always thinking about how to make our customers' lives better."
Create an Office Library
"I read a book a week and have done so since I was 12. When any of those books deliver me value, I bring them into the office and add them to our library. Over the years we've built up a library of 50+ life-improving books that our team is encouraged to take out and learn from. These ideas, once disseminated among the team, often lead to some of our most innovative ideas."
Create a Company Channel for Ideas
"We started a channel on Slack where an employee can submit an idea and put it to a vote. If the idea is voted in, it goes through a process approval process and is integrated into the company structure. Employees get 20 bucks if their idea is implemented. The voting system works well because those who would actually be using the new process have a say in whether or not it's implemented."
Solicit Employee Ideas
"We created an open system to solicit and act upon ideas that we call “The Innovation Council.” It is a bi-monthly meeting where ideas from around the company are openly reviewed. Everyone is invited to attend, every idea is guaranteed to be peer reviewed, and the winners are acted upon and celebrated."
"Innovating is like breathing for some of our exceptional talents. We just held a “hackday,” an internal 24-hour hackathon, and our innovation team took a break from their usual projects to work on completely different, new projects. The resulting projects may or may not be taken to market, but the team returned from the hackathon refreshed and ready to look at their regular projects in a new way."
"Our company motto is to try new things, knowing that a large portion of the times we will fail. We don't worry about failure, we worry about not learning from our failures. By failing hard, fast and forward we make the mistakes that help us to improve our structure. Instead of being paralyzed by fear of failure, we remove the fear and encourage our teams to act and learn."
Don't Punish Small Mistakes
"One of the quickest ways to stifle creativity is to micromanage and put employees in a culture where they're afraid that if they make the wrong decision, they'll be fired. Employees need the freedom to take risks, because that's what leads to innovation and creativity. And they need management that supports them and understands that risks sometimes don't work out."
Recognize and Reward Creativity
"The value we deliver to our customers stems from the innovation of our team. Acknowledging and rewarding innovative contributions from individual employees and teams is a top priority within our management and review structure. Our team regularly donates company time to open source projects outside of 10up that give back to the broader community and further enhance their creative abilities."
Encourage Transparency and Creative Thinking
"In a growing business, every day requires innovation on the fly. At ThinkCERCA, we empower our team to challenge themselves every day by thinking of ways to improve processes to yield greater outcomes. This could be as little as an email subject line all the way up to launching a new product line."
Be Intentional and Make Time
"We have a monthly "Blue Ocean" brainstorming session. This meeting is an optional company-wide meeting, making it very collaborative and bottom-up. People submit topic ideas to me throughout the month, and I'll curate one or a couple to discuss during this hour and a half."