Ado Omerhodzic

Posted on 15th February 2022

5 Ways to Stimulate Innovation in a Team

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In a rapidly changing world, organizations need the ability to innovate. But how does innovation really occur? What factors are important for our ability to innovate in a team? This article briefly describes 5 ways to stimulate innovation in your team and what worked for Flexiana. 

Measuring innovation

There are different approaches to measuring innovation or innovative performance. Sometimes a combination of ways are used. These include:

  • The scope of innovative ideas (subjective assessment)
  • Number of new ideas (objective measure)
  • The quality of innovative ideas (subjective assessment)
  • Number of new patents (objective measure)
  • Successful implementation of innovative ideas (subjective assessment)
  • Number of new products (objective measure)

Next we present five organizational approaches that can help with promoting innovation in a team. 

1. Flat hierarchy

Innovation doesn’t happen at the top of the organisation, it happens throughout the organisation and should be encouraged at every level. A study of over 300 executives from around the world found that companies with fewer organizational levels reached customers faster with new products and services. A flat management approach allows for more ideas and problems to be shared among employees, which in turn stimulates innovation. 

2. Diversity

There’s evidence pointing to diversity being a key driver of innovation and that it is a critical component of being successful on a global scale. It is also vital for companies that want to attract and retain talent. 

Diversity can mean different things for different teams. Some may look at job-relevant diversity, such as members’ function, profession, education, experience, knowledge, skills or expertise. Others look at background diversity. This includes diversity related to personal background, such as age, gender, ethnicity or disabilities. 

3. Provide the space to innovate

If you want to have intrapreneurs in your company, you need to provide time and space for people to innovate. That doesn’t mean a physical space or innovation lab. It is more important to make space within the corporate strategy for innovation, space within the portfolio to try out new product ideas, and space and time for learning and discovery. You can read more about making space for innovation in this article. 

If you realise that your team does not have the time and space for innovation, consider replacing time consuming tasks and basic processes with automation tools and software products that will free up time for more creative thinking.  

4. Maintain work/life balance

When people feel overwhelmed at work, creativity and innovation will be the last thing on their mind. Let’s take a nation as an example. Sweden is commonly ranked as one of the most innovative countries in the world. One of the key reasons for the innovative traits of Swedes is that work/life balance is highly valued in Swedish organizations. Not having to occupy your mind or worry about how to deal with everyday stress factors outside of work will leave more room for creative thinking. Yes, it’s totally fine to leave work early because you got to pick up your kids. Or to take 5 weeks of paid leave because you need the rest. 

Another interesting occurrence in Swedish teams is the “Fika”. A fika is a break, often short and social, where you take some time to slow down. It is essential in Swedish culture. You’d have several throughout the day, where you’d share a cup of coffee (no surprise that Swedes are among the heaviest coffee consumers in the world), a cinnamon bun, or just have a chat with your colleague. These informal breaks are not just for resting or gaining new caffeine induced energy, they also facilitate the sharing of tacit knowledge, as we wrote about in our previous article about knowledge sharing in software development teams. When you promote sharing of tacit knowledge, it is more likely to spur creativity and innovation. 

5. Trust (and the freedom to fail)

Finally, there is no innovation without the risk of failing. But if your team feels like they are not allowed to fail, they will less likely come with those groundbreaking suggestions but just play it safe. Therefore, it is vital that your team feels trusted, that they know that a failed idea won’t come at the price of losing their jobs. With a culture built on trust, failures can be turned into something positive. Some people would call that pivoting!

Innovation at Flexiana

At Flexiana we are putting more emphasis than ever on innovation. Having a flat and diverse organization, without any titles internally, has enabled everyone to be a part of the decision making process and is a large contributor to why we have been able to develop new products in Cryptocurrency over the past year. Whether you’re a Clojure developer or work in Human Resources, your words will matter when it comes to the decisions being taken.

There is a high-degree of trust rooted in the culture of Flexiana. People arrange their time in whichever way suits their needs, and we are slowly phasing out routine meetings and replacing them with quicker communication tools, to leave more room for useful workshops and creativity. 

If you are curious to know more about how we work with innovation at Flexiana, reach out to us and let’s have a chat.

If you need support in planning, designing, and implementing your ideas, feel free to reach out to Flexiana for a chat. We have a team of designers, testers, experienced Clojure developers, as well as experts in other languages, ready to tackle any challenge your company might have.

Good luck!