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22 pointers on creating and honing innovation within your business

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In the 21st century, with its fast information flow and rapid change, where hungry and creative new startups are around every corner, any organisation looking to achieve competitive advantage and business success must innovate or risk being disrupted.

Yet according to a recent study, “Engage, Enable, Empower”, by employee engagement experts Purple Cubed, six in ten organisations are failing to empower their people as part of an innovation culture, despite believing innovation is critical to growth.

If UK businesses are failing to nurture innovation among their people, this could have a serious and detrimental effect on team UK. It’s vital therefore that employees are empowered to innovate in order to see growth and GDP forecasts increase.

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What is innovation anyway?

If you put “innovation” into any search engine, you’ll be met with countless definitions. In short, innovation is about spotting an opportunity, having ideas, planning tactics and, critically, implementation.

And of course, this is where things often fall down. It’s far easier to come up with great ideas and to dive into discussing tactics than it is to actually put those concepts into practice.

As a result, some innovations never make it past the idea stage; quashed by marzipan-layer middle managers who put it into the “too difficult” box. Or they are dismissed by leaders who are risk averse, feel threatened or are entrenched in ‘left brain’ thinking; who gravitate towards the reasons “not to” rather than asking “what if?”.

Though, as Vlatka Hlupic, professor of business and management at University of Westminster, recently commented: “Innovation is crucial for business survival and has to be in the DNA of every business.”

So things need to change; though how?

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How to achieve innovation

For true innovation to prevail; employees must feel empowered, connected and safe to offer their opinions. So while many people talk about the creation of an innovation culture; what needs to first be created is an all-encompassing organisational culture which engages its employees in an open and trusting manner. By doing so, and with the right tools in place, innovation becomes a natural ‘by-product’.

Building a positive, open culture is a continuous and cohesive journey that starts from the very top of the organisation. One downfall of many UK businesses, however, is the assumption that engagement / culture / innovation is the responsibility of the HR department. This is not the case – every department and leader must have a responsibility for delivering the people strategies of the organisation.

To ensure for this buy-in, the starting point is a clarity of purpose. Engagement isn’t about having a lovely office space or loads of fantastic benefits; it starts with a connection. Why do your people get up and come into work every day? How are they making a difference?

Next, create an all-encompassing people strategy. Too many businesses still overcomplicate the “people stuff”; an unwelcome hangover from the industrial era where HR was all about processes, ticking boxes and procedures.

Yet it need not be difficult.

In my experience, just 12 areas of focus create a robust approach which can result in an engaged culture where innovation is the norm – continue reading on the next page for the rundown.

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