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4 tips to release employee-driven innovation

Increasingly, companies are recognising that innovation doesn’t only happen through investment in Research and Development. Businesses stand to gain a competitive advantage by involving people across the company in identifying and acting on innovation opportunities.

One such example is British Airways who introduced an online suggestion box for employees to propose how the airline could further reduce emissions and fuel costs. One of the 200 ideas submitted was a suggestion to descale aircraft toilet pipes which led to the airline saving over R13 000 000 through weight reduction and improving the performance of inflight conveniences.

This is just one of many success stories that illustrate how companies are already reaping the benefits from employee-driven innovation. Here are four useful tips businesses can use to do the same:

1. Give employees the tools for creative thinking

A great way to stimulate creativity and encourage knowledge sharing in your business is to give employees the appropriate tools to make meetings and brainstorms more collaborative. Interactive projectors, such as the Epson EB-1420Wi and EB-1430Wi ultra-short-throw projectors, facilitate better sharing of information via different communications channels, as well as accommodating multiple perspectives and creative ideas in real-time, making it a great tool to capture a brainstorm’s output.

Today, there are also many cloud-based solutions available to encourage knowledge sharing and stimulate innovation. Businesses and employees can easily tap into the solutions offered by applications such as Slack, Trello and Do.

2. Avoid a silo mentality

Although this can sometimes be a structural challenge for many large corporates with established hierarchies, facilitating collaboration between employees from various areas of the business allows for a free flow of ideas. When a group of people with different expertise come together, new ideas and concepts are explored that sometimes form the basis of the most ground-breaking ideas.

Another way to improve the flow of information is to allow staff to develop themselves in a variety of disciplines through secondments to different parts of the organisation.

3. Encourage competitions and open forums

If you don’t already have one, look into offering employees platforms to voice their ideas in the form of a suggestion box, open forum or competition. By giving employees the chance to put their innovative ideas forward to senior management, they will feel more valued and engaged in the company.

To encourage further engagement, think about offering incentives for the winning idea, such as a cash prize or award. Once the winning idea is chosen, it is important to implement the idea into tangible initiatives and products. This reinforces a sense of trust between you and the employee and will spur them to engage in other innovation programmes in future.

First National Bank provides a great example of innovation success and has made use of its FNB Innovators Programme to improve banking processes, re-invent products and services and make a difference in the industry.

4. Create an inspiring work environment

Workplace design is proven to be an important factor in getting employees into an innovation mind-set. According to Tower Bridge, a knowledge expert in design space, there is a clear correlation between workspace design and how people function. Creating engaging spaces that appeal to an individual’s five senses fuels productivity and encourages discussion and the expression of ideas.

A complete office redesign or refurbishment might not be on the cards for the majority of companies but the good news is that new advances in inkjet technology can help businesses liven up their office spaces more cost-effectively. Wide format print solutions such as Epson’s SureColor Series are able to print onto almost any surface imaginable, including canvas, glass and metal, opening up a world of office design possibilities. Similarly, projectors can be used to display any number of coloured images that animate otherwise dull and bland working environments.

By implementing these four tips to stimulate employee-driven innovation, businesses will reap the rewards of a more inspired and engaged workforce.