How to keep innovating at work

Published April 25, 2022
Last updated May 9, 2022

It is an oft-quoted statistic that 90% of startups are doomed to failure. You might conclude from this that innovation is risky, and in many cases, detrimental. However, there is plenty of data to suggest otherwise. While risk does exist in any new venture, the rewards far exceed it.

According to a Stanford study, innovation is the driving force for up to 85% of all economic growth. It is no wonder, then, that two-thirds of UK business leaders believe innovation is important to their organisation’s success. Global Innovation 1000 also found that there’s a clear increase in both revenue (11%) and EBITDA (22%) in more innovative organisations. One study found there’s even a connection between innovation and increased general well-being.

Innovation is a disruptor. It helps shake things up and re-spark interests. From an internal point of view, it can keep your employees engaged. By encouraging new ideas and cultivating a culture of creativity, you can make them feel more excited about their work. Innovation can also promote efficiency and increased productivity, with the help of automation tools and other technologies.

From an external standpoint, knowing how to innovate can set you apart from the competition. It will help you develop products and services that serve your customers’ evolving needs and match the changing market conditions. With all that in mind, how do you stay creative at work and avoid the traps of routines and old patterns? 

1. Change your environment

Have you ever heard of walking meetings? There’s a new trend among business leaders where, instead of using the boardroom or a coffee shop, they take their meeting partners for a walk in the park. The idea behind that is to keep your mind active by changing your surroundings. When you see new things, you can get more creative ideas. 

2. Challenge your body as well as your mind

You’ve probably noticed that most of your best ideas come to you while you shower, or just before you fall asleep. In these situations, we usually let our minds wander and we’re not stressed about solving a problem. You can recreate these conditions by giving yourself and your team physical challenges. Present them with a topic at the beginning of the day, tell them to forget about it and focus on exercise and competitions, and bring up the topic again at the end of the day. 

3. Find a creative buddy

The Muse suggests picking a co-worker you get along with and making yourselves accountable to each other in learning how to be innovative. You can challenge each other to try new things, share examples of being innovative to inspire one another, or simply be each other’s sounding board. It’s always easier to find creative working solutions when you hear your thoughts out loud. 

4. Look to your competitors

Other companies in your field may have a different perspective on marketing, sales, or retention, and you can definitely learn from them. Forbes gives an example of a manager asking their team members to bring in their favourite products from the competition. They proceeded to note what they like the most about the products, and what can be improved. 

5. Consult your staff

Just like you can brainstorm with a coworker, you can also bounce ideas off of your employees. They experience the company differently from you and have other responsibilities and daily concerns, so they can provide a fresh perspective. 

6. Diversify your team

Multiple studies have shown that diverse teams are more innovative, creative and productive. To that end, ensure that your team spans different genders, backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, and socioeconomic statuses. Having a diverse group invites out-of-the-box thinking and helps encourage innovative work.

7. Set boundaries

Some of the best poets are those who write within the bounds of a specific structure, such as a haiku or a sonnet. You may be wondering how that’s related to business. Having a clear set of rules and restrictions can help you cut through the noise and come up with more targeted ideas. For example, you can try boosting the innovation process by only allowing ideas that include specific words or apply to a specific situation.

8. Use “Yes, and…”

Let’s jump from poetry to comedy. In this field, to help develop a scene, it’s important not to tear anyone down, but rather build on their contribution. This can be a great approach when conducting brainstorming sessions in business as well. Instead of saying, “No, but what I think is...”, encourage your staff to consider the merits of the idea and add to it – to say, “Yes, and what we can also do is…” 

9. Create a safe space

Your staff may already have great ideas but don’t feel comfortable speaking up. By cultivating a company culture where ideas are valued and managers’ doors are always open, you’ll encourage employees to voice their opinions and put forward suggestions. 

10. Use technology to streamline processes

Sometimes innovation grinds to a halt simply because people don’t have time to get creative. By using technology to handle day-to-day tasks, you can free up employees’ time to think about the big picture.