Innovation is essential for gaining a competitive edge. Your internal communication system plays a key part in creating a culture of innovation.
Any company which fails to innovate inevitably loses marketshare or even dies out completely. Blockbuster and Kodak are a few examples of incredibly successful companies which went bankrupt because they could not keep up with technology disruptions.
To keep coming up with successful innovations and stay ahead of your competitors, it’s not enough to have a talented product team or even an R&D department with a large budget.
No, you need to create a culture of innovation in your company. The way to create that culture lies in internal communication.
The Innovators' DNA
In the bestseller, ‘Innovators’ DNA’ three eminent management experts: Clayton Christensen (of Harvard) Jeffrey Dyer (of Mariott School BYU) & Hal Gregersen (of INSEAD) reveal a ground-breaking study about the attitude and behaviors of the world’s leading innovators like Steve Jobs, Edison, Pierre Omidyar (Ebay founder) and many more.
Your internal communication system can play a vital role in creating that culture of innovation by encouraging the necessary attitude and behaviors.
Here are four ways to use internal communication to kickstart innovation in your company.
1. Encourage Inter-Departmental Communication
According to the study in ‘Innovators’ DNA’, people get better ideas when they network with those outside their own area of expertise. For example, your product team will get far better insights if they keep talking to people from support, sales and marketing, that will shed light on what customers want.
A mobile based internal communication platform like Smarp, will make it super-easy for your teams to interact with each other all the time and have the valuable discussions necessary to spark creative ideas.
2. Create a Knowledge-Based Culture
Another characteristic of innovators is that they are always asking questions like ‘how’, ‘why’, ‘why not’, and so on. They refuse to accept the status quo and have a burning desire to find better ways to do something.
To create this attitude among your people, you need to create a knowledge-based culture, where people want to know more, and are always asking great questions. An internal communication system will make it incredibly easy for people to share and comment on interesting articles, everyday experiences and lessons learned.
Once you begin to create that dialogue, people will want to figure out better ways to do something. The more questions they ask, the more likely they will be to come up with a valuable idea.
3. Encourage Experimentation through Trust
A vital attribute of innovators is that they are always experimenting. They are not afraid of failing and risking their reputation among their colleagues. This is exactly the culture that your company needs. But before you can expect people to take such risks, you have to begin with something far more fundamental.
Allow people to express their opinions and ideas, without the fear of being rebuked by their bosses, or looking stupid.
Top Management should use the internal communication platform to regularly start discussions and ask people for their opinions. They must encourage people to express their ideas freely without worrying about any consequences. Praise them for coming forward, not just for giving a great answer.
That’s when people will feel that their opinions are being valued and they will trust you enough to speak up. This is the first condition for creating a culture of innovation. Once this begins to take root, people will develop the courage to execute their ideas. In other words - experiment.
4. Create Transparency
The most fundamental trait of innovators is that they are always observing things around them. These observations raise questions, which in turn encourages experimentation, which in turn sparks innovation.
But before people can begin to observe, you need to make information transparent and easily available to them. Many companies prefer to create silos and share information on only a need to know basis - but this makes a culture of innovation nearly impossible to exist.
People should have a clear understanding of your company’s strategic goals, what different departments are trying to achieve, about what the company is doing to address changes in the market and competitors’ actions, and so on. Don't hide these updates on what’s working and what’s not from your employees.
An internal communication system makes it possible to have all this information easily available to all employees, all the time. When people know what’s really happening, they will be able to come up with better ideas that are relevant to the company’s current goals and challenges.
Innovation begins with simple things like dialogue, knowledge sharing, trust and transparency. Your internal communication system plays a vital role in facilitating these, and therefore in kickstarting innovation.