“The day I took on my new role, I said that our industry does not respect tradition—it only respects innovation. I also said that in order to accelerate our innovation, we must rediscover our soul—our unique core.” —Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

In the competitive marketplace, customers have many choices, and successful businesses must stand out from the rest. Thus, providing innovative products, services, or approaches for fulfilling customers’ needs and wants is not only for the tech industry—it is central to the success of every business, and it must be an integral part of a business strategy.

For all the talk about innovation, I see many leaders of organizations in every sector who actively stifle it.

I have compiled five best practices for creating an innovative culture:

  1. Be an innovative leader of your team
  2. Provide unstructured time for brainstorming
  3. Think about the same thing in different ways
  4. Appreciate every small but new idea
  5. Identify symbols for your innovative theme

Practice No. 1: Be an innovative leader of your team

Frame the way you want to change working procedures, industrial practices, and the world’s agenda and make it about the customer’s needs and wants. Then, try your best to work it out or make something (even a small thing) happen, and share the results with your teammates.

Important! You should believe you can be an innovative leader before motivating your teammates to innovate in their roles.

Practice No. 2: Provide unstructured time for brainstorming

Provide your teammates with “unstructured” time to explore more options or conduct different kinds of brainstorming activities to find solutions or explore challenging questions.

You are welcome to choose any time slot at any venue during working hours, but don’t choose lunchtime, because it is difficult for people to innovate when they feel hungry.

Practice No. 3: Think about the same thing in different ways

Provide some innovative problem-solving tools that give guidance and structure, but let teammates decide how best to use and apply them. Remember! People can change the outcomes of thinking if they use different thinking modes, ways, processes, or tools.

Practice No. 4: Appreciate every small but new idea

Don’t just recognize people who create comprehensive and detailed innovative proposals, but also provide recognition every day through informal interaction. Many great ideas come from continual improvement of small ideas!

Practice No. 5: Identify symbols for your innovative theme

Understand that mission statements, awards, stories of successes and failures, posters in the hallways, catchphrases, and acronyms all shape culture. As a culture creator and team leader, you should create branded innovative symbols that reinforce innovation values and direction.

For more ideas about innovation slogans and taglines, please read this great article by Brandon Gaille.

Conclusion

In your mind, which practice from the above list is most important?

Whatever your answer, don’t just read the article and wait for the best time to implement the above practices! As a pro-active team leader, you should print out this article and share it with your teammates NOW. Let your teammates choose one practice and motivate them to walk the talk in the upcoming week.

Of course, you should encourage your team to continue employing this practice until they have tested all five practices. I strongly believe that the innovative culture of your team will evolve afterward.

What is the next step after they have tested the above five practices?. You should consolidate the good ideas developed and coach them to develop a sixth practice that aligns with the symbols of your innovative theme.

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