Most business leaders would agree that innovative thinking within their organization is important. At American Lumber, we strive to create an environment where employees are encouraged to come up with new creative ideas to help the business grow.
We find that great new ideas and better ways of doing things can come from every department and from anyone in the company. It’s not realistic to think that innovation should only come from your senior leadership team and that’s why creating a corporate culture of innovation is important!
In our line of business we have found that creating a culture of innovation pays dividends time and time again. Whether it be the suggestion from a lumber grader for a new way to sort hardwood lumber which helps a particular customer increase their yields, or a better way load lumber into a kiln from a yard manager to create move valuable products, suggestions from engaged employees looking for better solutions is important.
Sometimes a team’s creative potential can be stifled because of a firm’s corporate normal or traditional ways of doing things. If you think that has any relevance in your environment consider some of these best practices to help empower and motivate your employees to become innovative thinkers.
- Ask your employees questions and invite their feedback. Sometimes, it’s as simple as asking employees questions to get them thinking. Generally speaking, “What if …?” questions are always better than anything that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Invite employees to submit ideas that might improve business operations, the quality of your company’s product or service, and/or ways to improve customer service.
- Listen to what your employees are telling you. Encouraging innovative thinking doesn’t add up too much if your business leaders aren’t genuinely listening. To ensure people are comfortable coming forward with creative solutions, make it clear that all ideas are welcomed—even (or especially) those that run counter to “how things are always done around here.” Let employees know it’s impractical to act on every idea put forward, but offer as much as feedback and communication as possible and encourage even more innovative suggestions in the future.
- Consider non-traditional break times. In a manufacturing setting, we know machines and stations must be operated at certain times. Wide varieties in schedules or flexible work hours are not always possible. However, creating a variable break schedule or using non-traditional scheduling methods could enhance creative thinking. If employees could use their free time wisely to observe other functions, analyze existing processes or just experience different times of the day to think, perhaps an environment where innovation flourishes will develop.
- Reward employees for innovative thinking. Like anything else, recognizing and rewarding innovative solutions encourages more of the same. As employees contribute suggestions, publicly recognize the most inventive and usable through company emails, team meetings and incentive programs for the most groundbreaking ideas.
Employees are among every business’s most valuable resource. We have seen this first hand. Several of our recent new hardwood lumber product programs, such as Super Prime lumber grades, hardwood moulder blanks, specialized rift & quartered white oak sorts, hardwood timber mats and special hardwood log offers all came from our employees thinking out of the box!
What other suggestions do you have to spur employees to be more innovative?