While innovation is undeniably imperative in today’s field service landscape, it doesn’t come easy for everyone or every company. It can be challenging to carve out time to “think big.” It can be scary. It can be difficult to determine what path to take among countless viable options. If an innovative mindset comes natural to you, that’s a great thing – but you’ll undoubtedly have to navigate co-workers who don’t share that trait. If innovation is outside of your comfort zone, that’s OK too – but you have to find ways to force the issue, because complacency is the kiss of death in the service-driven world we live in.
There seem to be some common company culture flaws that create roadblocks to innovation. Recognizing these flaws is the first step toward working past them to create an environment that fuels rather than smothers innovation.
#1: The Business-As-Usual Mentality
If business is going well, innovation may not seem urgent. Oh but it is. Just because things are going reasonably well doesn’t mean you don’t need to be thinking about how you can do better or what will come next. Leaders in service are always looking for ways to improve upon what they’re doing; even as they experience success. Going about business as usual is a trap, because before you know it, the competition that is brainstorming and roadmapping behind the scenes will be surpassing you. If you find yourself or your co-workers saying things like, “it’s going pretty well,” or “we’ve always done it this way,” or “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” you have an issue. Set aside time for brainstorming and innovative thinking, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel at first. Force yourself to think outside the box. Ask your customers for insight on what you could do better. Whatever you do, stop standing still.
#2: A Lack Of Collaboration
When there isn’t a convention to promote communication both within and among departments and functions, things happen in a vacuum and in that it is very difficult to uncover opportunities for innovation. Creating the opportunity for different roles and functions within your business to communicate, brainstorm, and collaborate will contribute to a more innovative culture. Once your teams begin discussing their daily struggles, wins, and experiences, ideas for how to improve your organization will start to surface naturally. The first step is to enable regular, open communication – and while that sounds very easy, it’s more challenging than you’d think because everyone is hyperfocused on their own to-do list, strapped for time, and busy enough. But it’s worth the effort!
#3: The Fear Of Failure
Change is hard, for a lot of different reasons. One of them is the fear of failure. Spawning innovation can be tough because many people fear having a “bad idea.” But here’s the thing – there aren’t bad ideas. Ideas should be encouraged and free-flowing, because only through the open expression of thoughts can innovation be born. If your employees fear having bad ideas, they’ll stay quiet and squash the potential for innovation. Let your employees know it’s OK to think big, to think differently – that all ideas are welcome. Put the parameters in place for what ideas see the light of day; not on having them to begin with. And remember, failure isn’t your enemy – you just have to fail forward. If you try something and it doesn’t work, you learn from it and try something different. Failure isn’t permanent unless you give up – so encourage ideas, try new things, and keep moving forward.
Keep in mind that innovation is a broad term; it can range from small, incremental improvements in day-to-day operations (that sometimes make a big impact) to a total transformation of business model. You don’t have to start by trying to reinvent the wheel – you can start small. But standing still isn’t an option, so take steps to make sure your company culture is one that is promoting and rewarding innovation instead of sabotaging it.