How to encourage innovation in business

04 December 2012 -


CIPD learning and talent development adviser John McGurk explains how collaborative working drives innovation

Most discussion about innovation tends to focus on two extremes. Either innovation is about big science and product development. Or it’s about creativity and culture. Both are of course crucial, but essentially innovation is about how people work together, and how they share knowledge and ideas.

CIPD has worked with University of Bath researchers to understand how these aspects of innovation are delivered. Looking at issues such as cross-boundary working and focusing on the sort of collaborative and integrative business partnerships that drive innovation, CIPD found that line managers can support and encourage innovation in terms in their organisation and were able to identify some key innovation profiles.

They offer some valuable tips for how managers can promote innovation:

Distributed innovators make innovation part of management’s core role. They share innovation across the organisation with a big focus on this being about knowledge sharing.

Inclusive innovators encourage a high level of involvement from employees, suppliers and even competitors.  They see innovation as critical and look far and wide to harness it.

Managerial innovators are more likely to focus on managers being solely responsible.

What managers who support innovation must do:

1. Train newly promoted managers

Focus on the types of development rated as effective for developing an innovation culture.

2. Use job rotation and coaching among line managers

In addition to prioritising leadership training and continuous learning.

3. Utilise skills and break down silos

Do this by making good use of employees’ skills and competencies, and encouraging them to collaborate, share knowledge and network with others. This approach is sometimes referred to as using human, social and organisational capital effectively.

4. Ensure that the organisation supports the innovation approach

Help people to introduce processes such as lean and continuous improvement, supporting people in initiatives even when there is some risk and giving people permission to fail productively. Productive failure means learning rapidly from mistakes and using them to inform a better solution. It worked for Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs!

Full reports on this topic from CIPD and the University of Bath are now online.

Powered by Professional Manager