Driving Innovation in a Non-Innovative Culture

Was your firm’s last “innovation” moving to Windows XP? Is your company the place where all innovative ideas go to die? You’re not alone.

Ironically, many IT departments do not maintain work environments that are conducive to innovation in tech.

It’s not that surprising when you think about it: Addressing day-to-day workplace challenges, from troubleshooting customer problems to navigating office politics, leaves many IT professionals little time to come up with the next big idea – or even the next practical one.

There’s more than one downside for firms that aren’t creating a culture of innovation: Not only will they have a hard time keeping a competitive edge, they’re also in danger of losing their skilled IT workers. When IT workers were asked in a recent Robert Half Technology survey why they would leave their current jobs, 48 percent said “need a new challenge.”

It’s one thing to say, “be innovative!” It’s another to know how to do it. Here are some tips:

  • Initiate a brainstorming session. Next time an IT problem has you stumped, ask your teammates to brainstorm with you. To help make new idea generation an ongoing process in your department, see if you can set aside a few minutes at the end of a staff meeting (ask your manager first) for brainstorming ways to solve issues and improve processes.
  • Cultivate curiosity. While staying up-to-date with technology used by your organization is essential to doing your job well, don’t lose sight of what’s happening outside of the company. Stay on top of new developments in technology and business. (On this topic, check out the innovation stories in our Robert Half Technology 2014 Salary Guide.)
  • Never stop learning. To be innovative is to never be comfortable. Push yourself out of your comfort zone by regularly taking on projects where you’ll learn something new. Sign up for training, workshops and seminars — especially those that your company hosts or offers to help pay for.

Sometimes, you have a great idea, but you can’t get anyone to buy into it. Here are some ways to take an innovative idea from no to go:

  • Figure out why there’s resistance to change. Often, people put up roadblocks because they’re afraid to change the status quo. While they may never admit to being afraid, it’s important to get to the root of their resistance so you can address it. Ask diplomatic questions and see if you can figure out what’s causing the resistance to change.
  • Make innovation seem less risky. Once you’ve figured out why someone is resistant to a new approach, build a case for why making the change may not be such a big risk. Show metrics or demonstrate how other organizations have done similar things successfully.
  • Don’t give up. Be patient and persistent. You may not convince your boss or team to try a new approach the first time – or the second or third. But if you build a solid case and present it diplomatically, over time there’s a good chance they’ll come around.

Remember, don’t be too idealistic. If your innovation is adopted by your firm, be prepared to have it morph significantly from your original idea.  Just because it isn’t implemented exactly the way you suggested doesn’t mean it’s not effective – or a good start.

Share your tips for breaking the mold and leading by way of innovation in the comments.

Tags: Career RX