Part One discussed five (5) ways to help build a collaborative and innovative culture: Trusting your Employees, then Empowering your Employees, Being Visible and Approachable, Encouraging Failure and making sure everyone understands that Innovation is much more than just Product Innovation.
Here are five more things to think about:
- ENABLE, ENCOURAGE & REQUIRE CUSTOMER INTERACTION: You might ask what this has to do with Innovation? A lot! Making sure all of your employees are “hearing” the customer directly and indirectly will further instill a sense of ownership and help them to identify opportunities to meet customer needs from all levels of your organization. Are employees listening to customer service calls? Reading customer emails? Reviewing weekly satisfaction survey results? Identifying unspoken customer service opportunities? They should be!
- “EAT YOUR OWN DOG FOOD”: It’s crucial that employees look at the company and its products or services through the “eyes” of the consumer. Have them experience firsthand, your company’s products and services and your competition’s products and services from the perspective of the customer. One of the more successful executions of this concept was demonstrated to me by an executive on my team who launched a program called “Eat your own dog food”. Employees were required to go through the entire customer life cycle from clicking on an ad, ordering a product, returning a product, complaining about a product, using a product, and everything in between. The list of ideas about what to change, fix and build to improve the customer experience was very long!
- ENABLE, ENCOURAGE & REQUIRE PRODUCT KNOWLEDGE: If we expect our employees to be successful in innovating across product and marketing to your consumers then they better understand those products and services that you are selling. Give them product training! All training is not created equal. The level of product training for your customers’ service reps may be more in-depth than product training for the finance team. Training ca take the form of online webinars, one-on-one in depth training or even at home reading
- DON’T BE THE “KNOW-IT-ALL”: Seems obvious? I have seen many leaders who are never willing to say they made a mistake or don’t want to show that they don’t understand something. As a strong leader, you will have already hired the best possible people in all critical roles… they should know more than you about what they do every day. It also should be very clear to everyone on your team that you are open to being challenged. This often leads to the most productive discussions/debates. It is a losing proposition if everyone yeses you all the time.
- BE TRANSPARENT: If the numbers are up… Tell your employees. If the numbers are down… share this as well. If the team is going to “own” the business they need to understand it – good or bad.
BONUS: REWARD TEAMWORK: Take the time to “call-out” successful projects, marketing campaigns or other initiatives that were accomplished with close collaboration across departments. It can be a simple verbal recognition or an award that is given out at a quarterly town hall. I like to give the group a cash gift-card to be used for a team lunch. At the same time – just stopping by someone’s office and saying “great job” goes a long way!