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How to drive innovation in the workplace

By Pacific National
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Are the best, brightest ideas devised by companies that are truly innovative?

Not long ago, the future of a business (or even an individual’s career) could be defined by a relatively structured framework. However, as the world changes and becomes more competitive, the need for innovation is more pronounced than ever before.

Research collated by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) suggested that more companies are aware of that need, but few are able to harness the power of innovation to its full potential. In short, as problems become more complex and advanced, some of the answers from days gone by simply aren’t effective any more.

The benefits of innovation

Innovation has become a buzzword for employees at all levels across a plethora of organisations, from the banking sector to rail and freight companies. While many are aware of it, what are the tangible benefits of thinking a little differently? Business Victoria, an initiative backed by the state’s government, highlighted the following:

  • Better business practices and increases in overall organisational performance
  • Increased competitiveness thanks to greater efficiency, lower costs and better quality products and services
  • Improvements in employee retention due to the fact they’re more engaged when challenged to push boundaries
  • It becomes easy to proactively address business concerns as the company is constantly adapting to changeable conditions
  • Opens the door to more new customers by improving existing offerings, or even offers the chance to enter new markets

The above is all well and good, but what does the process of thinking differently actually entail? While there’s no hard and fast rules, these practices can help drive innovation in any workplace:

1. Use technology effectively

Many processes across the world of work have now been digitised. However, there are even bigger gains to be had when technology is twinned with the quest for innovation. Research from the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions surmised that the use of innovative systems can help drive productivity.

There are big advantages to using technology in the quest for innovation.

An example that’s applicable to the transport and logistics sector is the use of modern communication technologies. Specifically, creating an open dialogue between drivers of freight vehicles and the applicable parties in the office environment is much easier thanks to digital solutions.

Technology used in this way can boost productivity, as employees can garner accurate information in a more timely manner.

2. Encourage different perspectives

True innovation is merely the practice of approaching challenges from different angles, and finding more varied solutions. To that end, Business Victoria suggested that the average workplace should be as diverse as possible when it comes to problem solving.

Research from the Young Entrepreneur Council, and published by Forbes, suggested that this doesn’t necessarily mean the business has to hire people that agree, merely those that can work together and find the most fruitful solutions to ongoing issues.

Companies should look for employees with values that align with the vision of the business, but have different passions and capabilities. Having a workforce that is ready and able to dive into creative problem solving will naturally create a culture of innovation.

3. Offer skills training

Personal improvement is key in many aspects of life. Across the workplace, it can be the difference between stagnation and driving a company forward. The Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) found that the key to genuine improvements in innovation can be accessed by bettering the skills of the workforce.

Moreover, the ESRC identified communications and technology as one of the main areas where employees should be offered the chance to upskill, linking this back to point one.

The research did go on to say that too few companies are choosing to offer employees the chances to improve their skills merely because their basic business activities don’t really require them to do so. However, having a highly trained, attuned workforce is certainly a step in the right direction when it comes to innovation.

The impact of innovation

While the above three points, and many more besides, will all be embraced by forward-thinking organisations, what kind of an impact can innovative practices have? In the case of logistics and freight, there’s the economics to consider.

Research from the Industry Skills Council (ISC) found that the transport and logistics sector plays a huge role in the wider outlook of Australia. In fact, the ISC went as far as to say that logistics enable every other Australian business and sector to thrive.

While there’s certainly diversity across the industry, innovation is what will truly drive it forward over the coming weeks and months. Too many businesses fall into the same habits, and fail to continually identify ways in which they can better themselves, their people and their processes.

Innovation may seem like something that’s hard to establish, but it doesn’t have to be. Thinking differently and giving employees the tools to get a little creative in their roles can start off relatively small, before going on to have a profound affect on organisational culture and performance.