The inspiring examples described in this Element show that there are so many ways of engaging your people in innovation and improvement – so be creative! These organisations have all been willing to experiment, to fail, and to discover what works for them. They also recognise that you can’t keep doing the same things forever – you have to be able to reinvent your innovation culture continuously.

Getting there challenges many conventional ways of thinking and established practices, and many organisations meet opposition on the way. As the Interdependencies table shows, it is important to confront obstacles and to align practices and behaviours throughout the organisation if you’re going to succeed in building and sustaining a culture of innovation and improvement.

Make times and spaces. Give everyone the opportunity to step back for their day-to-day tasks, reflect on what is working well and what isn’t, and think creatively.

Make people believe that it’s for real. Demonstrate leadership commitment to employee-driven innovation, and make sure all ideas are followed up.

Use anecdotes to stimulate reflection. People have great stories to tell about the good things at work and their frustrations. Both can help to stimulate new ideas.

Make it safe to ask difficult questions. Nothing should be off limits – managers at all levels should be open to questioning and constructive challenge

Build organisation-wide relationships. Getting together with people we don’t work with every day creates fresh insights and sparks new thinking.

Encourage enterprising behaviour. Expect people to take the initiative rather than ask for permission.

Experiment. If you think it might work, go for it. If it doesn’t, learn from it – and share the lessons.

Suspend judgement – don’t evaluate too soon. If someone comes with an idea, let them run with it. The learning may be just as important as success or failure. Don’t kill their enthusiasm.

Devolve problem-solving & decision-making. There is so much research and experience to show that empowered and trusted workers are more innovative workers.

Eliminate conflicting messages. Are you sure that your senior team, line managers, performance measures, rules and procedures are all aligned with a culture of innovation?

This is a prize worth having!

You can also download our worksheets on the Interdependencies relating to Employee-Driven Improvement and Innovation.And think about whether your own practices and behaviours as a manager incentivise or inhibit employee-driven innovation and improvement – Are you an enabler or a barrier reef?


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