10 Ways to Cultivate Innovation in Your Company

This is the second in a series of three posts about innovation and creativity by Brent Darnell, Aff.M.ASCE, president and owner of Atlanta-based Brent Darnell International. For more information, email [email protected] or visit brentdarnell.com.

In the first post in this series, we talked about why it’s important for companies to promote innovation. Now we’ll look at 10 ways to do just that.

Many of the following concepts may strike you as a bit outrageous, but many of them also are not new. They come from companies that do these things already.

Perhaps there are ways to adapt these ideas to the engineering and construction industry and your business.

1. Make every employee do anything other than work for one hour a day.

It can be anything from surfing the web to rollerblading. This gives them some downtime and clears their head for thinking in innovative ways. Employees will be more creative, less stressed and more satisfied.

2. Put in nap/recharge rooms so employees can restore themselves throughout the day.

Study after study shows this improves the bottom line and employees’ health.

3. Let employees bring pets or children to work.

This decreases stress and can increase employees’ time at work.

4. Create a results-oriented work environment.

Let employees set their own work hours and self-direct what they want to work on. Management can set work goals, but not tell employees how or when they need to be done. Depending on the position and the project, there are many days where employees could work from anywhere.

5. Collaborate with each other (industry-wide, even with competitors) on best practices for marketing, purchasing, procurement and delivery.

Help each other and share the rewards.

6. Find as many ways as possible to create a positive emotional experience internally and externally.

Laugh. Do office chair races or play games. Employees should have fun every single day.

7. Take a risk.

The risk-averse nature of the engineering and construction industry stifles creativity and innovation. Reward innovation, cultivate it and revel in it. Don’t condemn ideas that didn’t work; just move on to the next one. Edison found 999 ways that a light bulb didn’t work before he came up with one that did.

8. Give employees as much time off as humanly possible during the work week and for vacation where they don’t have to check in.

This is vital for your employees to recharge their health and well-being, as well as their longevity.

9. Spread love inside and outside of the company.

Work doesn’t always have to be serious.

10. Re-brand the company and fill it with spirit.

The brand of most contractors and engineers says trustworthy, reliable, stable, ethical and probably a list of other very nice words. But these words are a bit stuffy. Look at most commercials on television for a variety of products and services. All of them are filled with positive emotions: Coke: Open Happiness. Love: It’s what makes a Subaru a Subaru. Harley Davidson doesn’t sell motorcycles; they sell freedom and independence. Engineering and construction has really missed the boat.

The company that figures out how to brand itself with fun, love, humor, innovation and creativity will rise above the competition.

Part 3 in the series, on June 22, will discuss 10 ways to cultivate personal creativity.

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