Guide: Foster an innovative workplace


Innovation is the process of taking a new idea, building and testing it, and then implementing it. It is distinct from creativity, which focuses on the generation of new ideas. Creativity is an important part of innovation, but it's only one step in the process. An organization’s ability to innovate is a proxy for its long-term success in competitive and dynamic business environments, research shows. Studies also show a positive correlation between innovation and an organization’s profitability.

In recent history, there has been even more pressure to innovate given the speed at which technology evolves. Many technology companies have made conscious efforts to build innovation into their organizational practices. 3M started their “15 percent time” program which gives employees the permission to use company resources to explore their own ideas, a concept that Google and others have borrowed.

There is no single way innovation happens, even within Google. And it doesn’t happen just because of playful, colorful offices — but it doesn’t happen without some investment either. Being innovative doesn’t need to be expensive, and while it can’t be forced, it must be nurtured.

Making innovation part of your organization means making it a valued part of the way people think, work, and interact every day. In Google’s experience, innovation happens when you create the right environment, hire the right people, and get out of their way. There are five attributes that Google believes contribute to the development and use of new ideas:

  • Shared vision - Make sure everyone knows where the organization is heading.
  • Autonomy - Allow employees to define their own work as much as possible.
  • Intrinsic motivation - Hire naturally curious people who like to learn.
  • Risk-taking - Enable employees to feel psychologically safe to take risks and try new ideas.
  • Connection & collaboration - Make it easy for employees to find partners and work together.

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