5 Tips for Engaging Employees in Innovation and Intrapreneurship

More and more organizations are realizing that having an Innovation Lab does very little to engage employees in innovation. While many believe that Innovation Labs create a culture of innovation across the organization, they have been shown to have the opposite effect: in fact, they alienate employees from the concept and process of innovation.
There is much more to innovation than having a dedicated space with big white boards and piles of post-it notes. If you want to create a culture of innovation in which diverse employees can engage and feel committed to sharing ideas, collaborate to find new solutions and take ownership of the organization’s growth and agility, follow these tips:

Tip 1. When employees are newly hired, define what innovation means to your organization during the onboarding and training stage.

Make sure that seasoned and new employees alike have a clear understanding of how your organization defines innovation and what it means in their role. You can explore fifteen definitions by experts in the field here.

Tip 2. Establish clear and measurable innovation goals for each team, every year.

Have a look at your team’s current goals and expectations and ask the following questions:

  • Is there a connection to the organization’s vision on innovation?
  • How can those goals be made measurable and actionable?
  • What can you do to ensure employees are intrinsically motivated to achieve those goals?
  • Have they been engaged in the formulation of their own goals?

If you don’t have simple answers to these questions, then you have an opportunity to make time to address them. The sooner you prioritize the setting of innovation goals, the sooner you will see the powerful impact of sharing the responsibility of innovating.

Tip 3. Recognize failure just as much as you acknowledge success. 

The value in failing and dedicating time to its acknowledgment is that you make learning exponential. Everyone experiences failure all the time; the more you try new approaches or seek new solutions, the more likely you are to fail. AND the more likely you are to come up with a breakthrough solution! But if failures are swept under the rug, the opportunity to learn fast and adjust fast is completely lost.  The more people you can engage in recognizing individual and collective failures, the more transformative the learning will be. The overall result is collective agility.

Tip 4. Empower employees to experiment, try new approaches, and tackle problems without micromanaging.

Show that you trust in their problem solving abilities. Engaging in innovation requires a certain amount of freedom and autonomy. Start ups are known to be much more agile when it comes to innovation, and that’s because of their ability to test and adjust fast. If every one of your moves requires management approval, most ideas will get stuck in the idea stage – where they are doomed to die with no opportunity for learning and growth.

Tip 5. Provide innovation skill trainings such as Creative Problem Solving, Prototype Thinking, Emotional Intelligence, and Collaboration Skills.

If your employees find any of the previous four tips difficult to follow, the very first thing you need to do is develop the talent, confidence and know-how of your employees.  If there is one thing that has been proven about the act of innovating, it’s that innovating is a natural human ability. And like all other abilities, it can be developed, regardless of what your starting point is or how much skill and experience you already have with innovation, everyone can always become better at it.

Did you know… NeOlé provides innovation skills training, including Creative Problem Solving & Thinking Skills, Engaging Employees in Innovation, and The Innovative Team Mindset. Learn more here.

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