Business leaders strive for positive cultural change and innovation, resulting in happy, fulfilled employees creating value throughout the organisation. Writing for Strategy+Business, Lisa Bodell observes that “the journey is just as critical as the destination” when a culture is being reshaped.
During transition, leaders face a difficult balance between guiding people effectively and allowing employees enough freedom and flexibility to interpret directives and apply them to their own work. With that in mind, Bodell presents seven best practices to transform employees into “smart risk-takers”:
1) Define smart risks as opposed to stupid risks. By doing this, Bodell advises, "you’ll communicate the information necessary for them to evaluate ideas independently".
2) Set an acceptable rate of failure. Successful innovation involves trial and error and you must allow for some level of failure. You can set a success target rate and by doing so you’ll acknowledge that people can risk failure and step outside of their comfort zones.
3) Encourage expectation. Draw up specific time and resource boundaries for experimenting on new, innovative projects. You must make it safe for employees to try new things.
4) Use pilot testing. “Testing new ideas before their wide application is a key strategy for successful innovation,” insists Bodell.
Identify the indicators that determine whether the test concept will be pursued, such as budget, resources or feasibility results.
5) Use trust to empower. Bodell suggests asking teams to make three decisions independently this month. By showing trust you will breed confidence and critical thinking among team members and free up time for yourself.
6) Foster collaboration. Establish a network of innovation mentors by pairing people from different parts of the organisation to share advice, and resources. Select managers who understand your vision and the company’s overall goals.
Then ask them to track innovation across departments, connecting and supporting other people with capabilities that align with project needs.
7) Celebrate smart risk-taking. Use your company’s intranet, e-letters and social media networks to acknowledge people who take smart risks. Also reward them with gifts or time off. By doing so, you’ll be encouraging others to do the same.