Blockbuster. Borders. Pan Am. Kodak. What do these four companies have in common? If the failure to innovate is coming to mind, you’re correct. And in today’s digital economy, the need to innovate is more important than ever. In fact, Gartner predicts that while 70% of businesses are now becoming or preparing to become digital businesses, only 30% of these efforts will be successful.
So, what drives innovative success? Of course, thinking big and taking risks are factors; but communication is key. When people are surrounded by constant, effective communication and encouragement, they will find the courage to share their ideas and collaborate to make them happen.
How, as a communicator, can you help to drive innovation at your organization? Here are four ways to get started:
1. Harness and equip your game changers: The best ideas don’t always come from the top, so make sure your employees know that their innovative ideas are part of your organization’s strategic direction. By working with HR, business unit leaders and the C-suite, reinforce that messaging at live events and in company-wide announcements. But don’t stop there. Give employees the platform to create and share their ideas. Take Facebook’s hack-a-thon for example. Every couple of months, teams work together on a project. These ideas have turned into frames for your profile picture, the Like button, and the ability to tag a friend in the comments of a post. This is a common trend we’re seeing as more and more organizations that we work with are tapping into their organisation’s collective intelligence. For the communications department, the big challenge is getting through to those hard-to-reach teams who may not be online day-to-day. It is vital that these teams can participate, as it is often from the least-heard voices and that the most exciting ideas emerge.
2. Encourage failure: The connotation of the word ‘failure’ is often extremely negative both in society and in the workplace; but it shouldn’t be. Many great successes started off as failures. In 1968 when a chemist at 3M set out to develop a strong adhesive…he accidentally created a removable adhesive instead. And now, about 50 billion Post-It notes are sold in over 100 countries each year. But even if failure does not lead directly to success, it might be a stepping stone. As a communicator, make sure this type of messaging is clear to employees. Work with the C-Suite to develop a culture of innovation and stress that they are in a safe environment – it gives employees a sense of value, and they’ll know that their opinions and input matter. This will encourage employees to tap into their ‘seeking system’ – the part of the brain that thrives on exploration and experimentation.
3. Use Employee Social Networks (ESNs): Platforms such as Workplace are taking hold inside organizations. They are driving collaboration across new axes and communities. Communicators also now have the ability to control the conversations via these networks. Post third-party thought pieces to get employees to think differently, or reward employees who are being innovative by calling them out in a weekly roundup. When employees are publicly rewarded for ‘thinking outside of the box,’ it will encourage more to do so.
4. Walk the Talk: Virtual and augmented reality are increasing the stickiness of communications and bringing experiences to life for both employees and customers. If you’re encouraging employees to be more innovative, you need to show that your organization is innovative in your communications too. VR can create a social presence between teams or employees – people feel like they’re actually in the same room with each other – all emotions and gestures are clearly shown. This eliminates any feelings of distance or multi-tasking, causing people to feel safe to share innovative thoughts and ideas. Apart from using VR to encourage boundary-less and boarder-less communication, try creating immersive experiences for employees to get them thinking. We’re bringing static posters to life with graphics, videos and talking heads for one of our clients. And we’ve even helped one organization share their history in an immersive visual, exploratory VR experience.