Encouraging Innovation

There are countless numbers of blog posts written about innovation. Companies need to be innovative, people need to be innovative, and technology needs to be innovative. You name it and someone has something to say about innovation.

I want to focus on encouraging people to be innovative in their thinking.

Take a look at W.L. Gore. W.L. Gore, the inventor of Gore-Tex®, is an amazingly innovative company that allows its employees to have free time to experiment on whatever they’d like during “dabble time.”

Combining people, thinking and change always equals wonderful challenges, doesn’t it?

I don’t believe it does. I don’t believe that innovation can be taught or planned.  I believe innovative thinking and ideas from people just come. They come from being proactive, making mistakes or even just being sick and tired of doing the same process over and over and deciding there has to be a better way. Personally, random thoughts just come to me in the middle of the night or in the shower (where I never have a keyboard or a pen) and having “dabble time” for innovation wouldn’t work for me.

So, how can you encourage people to be innovative in their thinking?

I’m a firm believer that there is not a “one size fits all” innovation style for organizations. However, I do believe that companies can encourage innovative thinking with small steps and allow it to take off with little intervention from management.  Innovative thinking should come naturally because,  it’s thinking with the hopes of having a new idea and thinking  works best when it’s not forced.

By providing an environment that allows self-directed teams, flat hierarchies and self-accountability, innovative thinking can be born in any organization at any time.

Why?  Because the traditional corporate conditioning of manager-delegating-to-employee is gone, rank is gone and autonomy is distributed equally.  People are able to combine their diverse skills and be accountable to both themselves and their peers without management approval or interference.  Creativity and new ideas are bound to emerge because empowerment and engagement comes when people have freedom to contribute and know that the work they do really matters.

I have always believed that the more restrictions we place on “how” we work and the decisions we make, the less innovation and free thinking will result.

What do you think?

Does your company take an interest in encouraging innovative thinking? How? I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions.

Kimberly is our Women of HR Featured Contributor this week. Click over to meet her and see what she has to say about herself, her career and her views on the workplace and the women in it. 

About the Author

Kimberly Patterson

Kimberly Patterson is the founder of Unconventional HR. An HR pro turned consultant, she has 25 years of progressive experience as a strategic HR and business leader in a variety of industries. Her hands-on and innovative approach allows her to create and deliver HR solutions to meet business challenges and needs by managing human capital, talent acquisition and technology. Connect with her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kimberly_patt, or at kim@unconventionalhr.com.


peter subraj

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