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How to improve innovation in the workplace

Many believe that there’s a shortage in America’s top talent. If that’s true, then how do you help your business to stand out from the competition? Well, many also believe that you have to know how to be innovative in the workplace. You need to be on the ball, working hard to build a forward-thinking organization.

If you don’t think that’s true, consider a survey done by the global staffing firm Robert Half. According to its results, 87% of polled workers related that a company’s willingness to innovate was a deciding factor in whether they chose to work for that organization or not. The lesson?

You’re playing a risky game if you refuse to focus on innovation in today’s marketplace. Of course, being innovative has challenges. That’s why we’ve written this quick guide, which contains some fantastic ideas for innovation in the workplace.

Young Coworkers Brainstorming
SFIO CRACHO/Shutterstock

Collaborate and communicate

If you want to know how to improve innovation in the workplace, you simply need to listen to your employees’ ideas. People have great ideas all the time. Make it a common practice to ask those who work in your organization for ways that your company can improve. Don’t limit your idea intake to your inner circle. Give all and sundry the opportunity to share their thoughts. Provide incentives. If an idea can genuinely provide your company with an advantage, reward that individual.

Use play to spur innovation

Interestingly, many companies that we all think of when it comes to wild success and innovation, like Google, give their employees a lot of freedom. They encourage downtime and playtime. They know that superb ideas sometimes come about when people are free to play and get creative. Allowing employees to take a break and challenge each other to mind-expanding games can spur creativity in other areas when they get back to work.

De-stress and innovate

Interestingly, when you aren’t stressed out, it’s easier to be creative. That also means it’s easier to innovate. One specific way that you can bring stress levels down, so that you have the presence of mind and the mental energy necessary to get creative, is to practice mindfulness. In essence, it’s focusing on the here and now. It’s placing all your attention on the present moment, whether it’s working on the spreadsheet you’ve got open in front of you or eating lunch.

It’s all about quieting your mind. If you’re a manager, you can help your employees by ensuring that those under you are not overburdened. Crossing items off a to-do list is all well and good, but you want your people to have mental “room to breathe.”

Get physically active

Many people have unique ideas that come to them while in the midst of physical activity. For example, Einstein is quoted famously as saying that he thought up his theory of relativity while out on a bike ride. In the same way, many tech companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere encourage their employees to be physically active even when at work.

For instance, we mentioned that Google gives its employees an incredible amount of freedom, but it bears repeating. The tech giant provides things like arcade games and table tennis to its workers. They know Theodore Sturgeon was correct when he noted, “The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play.”

If you don’t work in a play-centric office and you’re a decision-maker, perhaps the time has come to start working on incorporating play into your company’s culture, especially if you want to stay ahead of your competition for the long haul.

Become a zombie

OK, that’s a little tongue-in-cheek, but science has shown that problem-solving is best done early before you’ve had the chance to fully wake up or in the middle of the night when your body feels like it’s dragging and your mind feels a bit numb.

In fact, Albion College’s psychology department did a study that found that when you don’t have control over your attention, your active mind doesn’t judge every thought it has. That means ideas you might otherwise shoot down get blurted out, and they might have merit.

Young Employees Playing At Work
LightField Studios/Shutterstock

The importance of innovation

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Why is innovation important in the workplace?” the short answer is that it gives your business an edge when it comes to staying ahead of your competition and when trying to penetrate new markets. It helps your company to defend its bottom line.

Moreover, work environments where play and creativity are part of the culture are happier places. Across the board, these types of organizations enjoy stronger employee retention because the people who work for them are largely satisfied with their work experience.

Indeed, Entrepreneur magazine noted that up to 63% of companies in America now have chief innovation officers. That should tell you something. With all of that said, remember that innovation can be a long game. Never stop trying to innovate, but be patient with yourself and your employees. Innovation doesn’t always happen overnight.

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