One way for organizations to become more innovative is to capitalize on their employees’ ability to innovate. Employees can help to improve business performance through their ability to generate ideas for new and better products, services or work processes. But the challenge is to put this theory into practice.
In order to realize a continuous flow of innovations, employees need to be both willing and able to innovate. For that reason it is imperative to create a good working atmosphere and provide the right tools and skills.
Probably the most important ingredient for both things is the leader as enabler and enhancer of innovative behaviours among the employees. Leading by example is the best way to promote this kind of behaviour as far as leaders have a powerful source of influence on any work behaviour. In addition to that the leader must promote employees’ interaction with others in the workplace.
Innovation theorists often describe the innovation process as being composed of two main phases: ideas generation and implementation. For the first one the leader must reinforce the creativity capabilities of the team. The goal is to find good ideas that can be productive for the firm and implemented in the short-medium term. The leader should stimulate team members to view problems in new ways and help them to develop to their full potential.
Most companies however fail in the implementation (when ideas should become real products, services or processes). The role of the leader in this point is key. He should act as a real organizational facilitator and help the team to implement the new idea.
Finally there's another important task for the leader: expectations management. The leader must ensure that everyone understands that innovation is not just finding great ideas. Make small improvements in processes is another useful form of innovation.