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Through the Startup Weekend Fellowship, members of the Startup Weekend Community who want to start a technology company can apply to the Silicon Valley Founder Institute chapter for free, and the best overall applicant will be invited to participate in the Founder Institute's step-by-step startup launch program for free as well.

Eligibility: In order to be eligible for the Startup Weekend Fellowship for the upcoming semester, you must complete your application and admissions test by Sunday, December 11th, 2016, using this link.

Grant: The recipient of the Startup Weekend Fellowship will be awarded within 5 days after the deadline.

Click here to apply for the Startup Weekend Fellowship.

6 Keys to Fostering an Innovative Culture within Your Company

Posted by Joe Garza on 2017-03-01

In this guest blog post, Shawn Parrotte, Marketing Manager at Designli and friend of the Founder Institute, outlines six important tips for companies who want to cultivate a culture of innovation, and why innovation is essential for growth.

Creating a culture of innovation within a company can be the key to its success. When innovation is lacking, it can cause valuable employees to become restless and can hurt business revenue. It’s critical that companies implement necessary initiatives that will foster new ideas, in addition to ensuring that employees are supported from within. There are an array of topics that need to be considered in order to ensure that a company’s mission of innovation is achieved.

1. Make Innovation a Company Mission

The concept of innovation is often the primary focus of a company’s mission and it acts as a starting point for measuring progress. However, creating innovation as a company starts with its leaders, as they will play a critical role in nurturing innovative ideas. When creating a mission of innovation, it is important to look not only at things that further the innovative process, but also focus on ways to keep innovation flowing through the company.

Leaders need to put standards in place so that employees have something to strive for, while at the same time showing that they too believe in the power of innovation. There is a significant difference between claiming that innovation is the cornerstone of a company, and following through in creating a workplace that truly strives for innovation.

2. Give Employees & Intrapreneurs Time & Space to Innovate

Often companies create a mission built on innovation, while at the same time not allowing their employees the time to develop innovative ideas. In fact, some of the most successfully innovative companies have structures in place that give employees more freedom to experiment with concepts they feel will be valuable. One way to do this is to allot workers a certain amount of free time in which they will be able to nurture their ideas.

For example, some employers will let employees take an entire day off from their normal schedule to come up with ideas, so long as they can show they have been productive, regardless of the eventual outcome. Still, other companies allow employees to use 10% of their work week to dedicate towards innovation. In any case, this helps workers by alleviating unnecessary pressures.

3. Understand What Kind of Innovation is Useful for the Company

A problem often encountered when trying to create a culture of innovation is a misallocation of ideas that will not be useful for the company. This can occur when companies disregard changes in the industry, neglect intuitive ideas from employees, and dismiss customer feedback. To counter this, it is vital to determine the kind of innovation that is useful for the company.

Perhaps the best way to do this is to listen to the customers, as their input can be extremely valuable as to the direction a company should go. Customers are keen on innovative ideas which they would like to see implemented, and taking their suggestion and opinions to heart could help ensure that a company is coming up with innovative ideas that will help further company growth and expand its user base. After all, customers are the ones buying the products, so they know which changes they would like to see.

And while customer input is invaluable, there are other performance metrics to consider, however, these will be different for each specific case. At times, picking a single metric on which to concentrate can help keep the focus on a particular facet, instead of allowing the results to be skewed by concentrating on too many variables.

4. Move Fast & Test Ideas

Innovative ideas are wonderful when they pay off, but there are many times when concepts fail to gain traction and the result is time wasted on a fruitless endeavor. To counter this, it is imperative that a company move quickly to create innovative ideas, and put them into play so that they can be tested for feasibility.

A driving force in the innovative process is market research and analysis, and these can help provide valuable insight into which projects should be given the green light, and which ones should be scrapped to make way for incoming ideas. However, these are not the only tools that should be relied upon to determine steps toward innovation.

Human intuition can supersede what the data is saying, and there are times where one must rely on gut feelings to determine implementation of an idea. With this said, it is still critical to test ideas and get other’s opinions, as testing is the only way to prove an idea is successful.

5. Foster Collaboration Between Employees & Departments

Collaborating with other employees and departments can lead to expanded innovation and insight from all levels within a company. In large companies, there are often many different levels of management and this can work against the ability of the company to be innovative. Innovative ideas are sometimes left by the wayside because employees are weary of showing them to management for fear they will be shot down.

By breaking down the barriers between management, and creating a company in which employees share a similar level of responsibility, will allow employees to communicate without the worry of pleasing management. Instead of having management meetings where employees are left out of the conversation, which can leave them feeling like they are out of the loop. Have meetings where all of the staff can brainstorm in a collaborative environment without fear of being ostracized. These habits can greatly improve the fostering of innovative ideas.

6. Continuously Recognize & Celebrate the Innovative Culture You've Developed

Rewarding employees for their contributions is essential in creating an innovative company. In addition, rewards can go a long way in increasing morale and they will keep people motivated. If employees do not have the incentive to perform, it can cause the collaborative process to stall. And while giving a singular award to an employee can act as a temporary incentive, this will not last forever, and eventually, the incentive will be forgotten. Therefore, it is important that companies continuously celebrate contributions to maintain an innovative culture.

It’s been found that in many cases employees respond more to rewards that encompass the entire collaborative unit, and not just a single individual. After all, there are typically many workers involved in bringing innovative ideas into existence, and rewarding a single member does not make sense. It is also vital to celebrate failed ideas to show that the company is supportive no matter the outcome, so long as the employee is attempting to make the company more successful.

Final Thoughts

There is no doubt that innovation is vital for a company to remain competitive, and therefore, the fostering of innovative ideas should be a priority. And while innovation is always desired, the steps to achieve it are sometimes confusing and this can work against an employer. When striving to create a collaborative environment, a company must recognize the importance in allowing workers to use their own intuitions as to the innovations that are beneficial to the company, while rewarding them for any legitimate attempt at innovation. By taking the time to ensure that the proper steps are taken, a company can count on being a leader in innovation.

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(Innovation Creative Design Development Ideas Concept by Shutterstock)

6 Keys to Fostering an Innovative Culture within Your Company

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