As the world of business turns ever faster, it is difficult for most SMBs to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to innovation (applying new technology in new ways). Sustaining success within this context is difficult. There will always be heightened demands on the company and individual workers, with ever-shifting expectations, just in the normal everyday industry you belong to. So how do you bake innovation into your culture? One of the ways to accelerate innovative thinking is to create an agile environment.
Loosen the reins. If you want people to innovate, you can’t be pulling on the reins too tightly. It’s like a thoroughbred rounding the backstretch – the jockey has to give some leeway and let the horse find its optimum finishing speed. So to for your employees. Innovation starts with innovators, and you have to let innovators innovate. The workplace that gives employees plenty of control over their space breeds agility and innovation.
Agile systems. You also have to make sure you are providing the correct tools for your employees. Investments in new systems, software and communication devices is an enabling factor that can’t be understated. Or scrimped on. Investment in agile systems demonstrates your commitment to your innovation teams – whether they are in inventory management, AR/AP, sales or engineering.
Managing inter-office politics. An agile environment can sometimes become unstuck in the real world of business. Innovators can sometimes go down the wrong path and get lost in the weeds. For every success, there is an equal and opposite dead end – and this can breed inter-office resentment, because the agile workplace is naturally competitive. This is where great managers excel. They understand when to step in and manage relationships. As successful managers come to realize, knowing when to back off is just as important as knowing when to step in and get everyone back on the same page.
Setting limits. You need to stay disciplined in an agile environment. You have to instill in your team the need to do one thing at a time and not get too far ahead of themselves. Multi-tasking is fine, but too much overloads the senses when it comes to true innovation.
Measure results. If you don’t measure it, it’s not real. Any changes you make to the workplace environment, any new systems you upgrade to, any innovation you embark on – the results have to be measured versus expectations. Or you’ll never know if your agile environment is producing the correct results.