The straightforward answer is EXTREMELY! Diverse teams with different types of innovation skills drive innovation. Did you know teams without ethnicity and gender diversity are 27% more likely to lose profits? Research by McKinsey shows that now more than ever companies must continually innovate. They should also have fresh ideas and offer new perspectives to succeed.
What are innovation skills?
First off, what exactly does innovation mean? According to Indeed’s Career Guide, it’s the capability to generate ideas that create value and improve processes. Innovation skills are the abilities used to create and adapt to change. It’s how employees use their skills to solve problems and implement solutions. Employees are a great asset to their company if they have innovation skills:
- Curiosity: Have a strong desire to know and learn. Keep up on the latest trends and topics in the industry. Research, read, attend conferences, listen to podcasts, watch webinars, and take training courses. Constant curiosity will increase knowledge of future trends. And then, apply accordingly. Simply being curious helps companies become change-makers and industry disruptors.
- Imagination: Be creative and resourceful. Have brainstorming sessions to generate new ideas and new ways of thinking. Be open-minded. The sky is the limit.
- Problem-solving: Find solutions to complex problems. Collect data, collaborate with coworkers, voice opinions during meetings, and make recommendations.
- Design thinking: Conceptualize creative solutions and determine how to create these ideas into reality. Test the concept and measure the outcome. Conduct trials and then refine ideas before the full-scale implementation.
- Risk-taking: Challenge the norm in the hope of a desired result. It’s ok to question the reason behind a process to improve upon the process. Ponder if there are better ways to accomplish tasks. If so, take the initiative and make improvements.
- Critical thinking: Objectively analyze and evaluate an issue and propose a solution. Be proactive about making improvements while maintaining a growth-oriented mindset.
How can organizations and leaders build innovative teams?
As witnessed by the COVID-19 pandemic, companies must be innovative to succeed, especially during times of crisis. Think about all the innovative solutions that are now here to stay, such as remote/hybrid work, telehealth, and online education. Companies now place a stronger emphasis on mental health training and employee work-life balance.
Look at Apple, Google, and Amazon. They have made a global impact on how we live. How does this happen? Apple employees are encouraged to think outside of the box and then disregard that box. Google sees innovation as part of its company mission. And they empower employees to be creative. Amazon attributes its growth from a humble garage to a trillion-dollar company to its “Amazon innovation mindset."
Be a risk-taker! And ask how your company can be the next Apple, Google, or Amazon. Here are several ways to drive corporate innovation:
- Make innovation a core value. Build an understanding that the idea of not trying anything new is the biggest risk. Encourage employees to be honest and open, to share ideas, and explore initiatives without fear of retribution.
- Diversify talent pipelines. Hire and promote skilled workers who are members of underrepresented groups. This includes women, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and disabled people. Hire staff with different perspectives and abilities. Potential employees’ goals should align with the organization’s vision and culture. To find qualified individuals in the underrepresented pool, write an inclusive job listing. And have targeted postings on various social media platforms. Always look for ways to eliminate bias from impacting hiring decisions.
- Create a culture of belonging. The culture must promote psychological safety when expressing new ideas. This should happen at every level of the organization. Be a champion for your team. Be open to feedback. Include employees in the decision-making process.
- Give employees time to innovate. Set aside time for them to create and share ideas. Be open and approachable to their new ideas.
- Encourage collaboration. Create work practices to encourage employees to work together. And openly discuss ways to improve. Hold process improvement brainstorming sessions with employees from different departments within the organization. Add “what if” or “new ideas” discussions to meeting agendas.
- Implement a feedback process. Employees need to understand the process for accessing each new idea. Acknowledge every suggestion in a timely manner and provide
- Take risks! Don’t be shy about sharing or considering ideas, no matter how far out they may be! Spanx founder Sara Blakely never planned on starting a business. But she knew how uncomfortable pantyhose were. She repeatedly heard her idea was “so crazy.” She took a risk. With $5,000 of her own savings, she wrote the patent herself. Her business is currently valued at $1.2 billion dollars!
- Reward employees for their ideas. Offer rewards for suggestions even if they’re not implemented. Reward individual employees, teams, or the entire workforce. An extra day off work is always appreciated! So is an Amazon gift card or lunch with the team.
- Make learning inclusive. DEI efforts that do not reach everyone will fail. Your entire organization needs and deserves to participate. Utilize virtual learning modalities to spark company-wide conversations and engagement, such as webcasts, eLearning, and discussion guides.
- Offer opportunities to expand skillset. Offer training that inspires new thoughts and business approaches. Leaders should also provide growth opportunities for their employees. They should set SMART goals for their employees. And provide mentorship programs as well as offer self-directed learning.
As McKinsey research shows, cognitively diverse teams outperform non-diverse teams. Diverse teams bring a wider range of ideas, approaches, and solutions to the table. Inclusivity increases employee engagement. It improves morale and builds creativity across teams. All of which are beneficial for an organization’s bottom line. Inclusive teams help companies become change-makers and industry disruptors. Staying on top of industry trends and topics is a game changer. If a company is going to prosper, employees must have innovative skills.