Four tips to release employee-driven innovation
By Kelvin Reynolds, General Manager of Epson South Africa
Increasingly, companies are recognising that innovation doesn’t only happen through investment in Research and Development. Businesses stand to gain a competitive advantage by involving people across the company in identifying and acting on innovation opportunities.
One such example is British Airways who introduced an online suggestion box for employees to propose how the airline could further reduce emissions and fuel costs. One of the 200 ideas submitted was a suggestion to descale aircraft toilet pipes which led to the airline saving over R13 000 000 through weight reduction and improving the performance of inflight conveniences.
This is just one of many success stories that illustrate how companies are already reaping the benefits from employee-driven innovation. Here are four useful tips businesses can use to do the same:
#1. Give employees the tools for creative thinking
A great way to stimulate creativity and encourage knowledge sharing in your business is to give employees the appropriate tools to make meetings and brainstorms more collaborative. Interactive projectors, such as the Epson EB-1420Wi and EB-1430Wi ultra-short-throw projectors, facilitate better sharing of information via different communications channels, as well as accommodating multiple perspectives and creative ideas in real-time, making it a great tool to capture a brainstorm’s output.
Today, there are also many cloud-based solutions available to encourage knowledge sharing and stimulate innovation. Businesses and employees can easily tap into the solutions offered by applications such as Slack, Trello and Do.
#2. Avoid a silo mentality
Although this can sometimes be a structural challenge for many large corporates with established hierarchies, facilitating collaboration between employees from various areas of the business allows for a free flow of ideas. When a group of people with different expertise come together, new ideas and concepts are explored that sometimes form the basis of the most ground-breaking ideas.
Another way to improve the flow of information is to allow staff to develop themselves in a variety of disciplines through secondments to different parts of the organisation.
#3. Encourage competitions and open forums
If you don’t already have one, look into offering employees platforms to voice their ideas in the form of a suggestion box, open forum or competition. By giving employees the chance to put their innovative ideas forward to senior management, they will feel more valued and engaged in the company.
To encourage further engagement, think about offering incentives for the winning idea, such as a cash prize or award. Once the winning idea is chosen, it is important to implement the idea into tangible initiatives and products. This reinforces a sense of trust between you and the employee and will spur them to engage in otherinnovation programmes in future.
First National Bank provides a great example of innovation success and has made use of its FNB Innovators Programme to improve banking processes, re-invent products and services and make a difference in the industry.
#4. Create an inspiring work environment
Workplace design is proven to be an important factor in getting employees into an innovation mindset. According to Tower Bridge, a knowledge expert in design space, there is a clear correlation between workspace design and how people function. Creating engaging spaces that appeal to an individual’s five senses fuels productivity and encourages discussion and the expression of ideas.
A complete office redesign or refurbishment might not be on the cards for the majority of companies but the good news is that new advances in inkjet technology can help businesses liven up their office spaces more cost-effectively. Wide format print solutions such as Epson’s SureColor Series are able to print onto almost any surface imaginable, including canvas, glass and metal, opening up a world of office design possibilities. Similarly, projectors can be used to display any number of coloured images that animate otherwise dull and bland working environments.
By implementing these four tips to stimulate employee-driven innovation, businesses will reap the rewards of a more inspired and engaged workforce.
Epson is a global technology leader dedicated to connecting people, things and information with its original efficient, compact and precision technologies. With a lineup that ranges from inkjet printers and digital printing systems to 3LCD projectors, smart glasses, sensing systems and industrial robots, the company is focused on driving innovations and exceeding customer expectations in inkjet, visual communications, wearables and robotics.
Led by the Japan-based Seiko Epson Corporation, the Epson Group comprises more than 67,000 employees in 90 companies around the world, and is proud of its contributions to the communities in which it operates and its ongoing efforts to reduce environmental impacts.
About Epson Europe
Epson Europe B.V., based in Amsterdam, is the Group’s regional headquarters for Europe, Middle-East, Russia, and Africa. With a workforce of 1,700 employees, Epson Europe’s sales for fiscal year 2015 were 1,577 million Euros. http://www.epson.eu
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About Epson sub-Saharan Africa
Epson’s operations in sub-Saharan Africa were established in 1997 with headquarters based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Since then, Epson has established a panel of distributors and resellers throughout sub-Saharan Africa who are dedicated to serving Epson’s end-consumers with the highest quality products and levels of support. Epson now manages sales and support in 21 sub-Saharan African countries including South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho, Zambia, Malawi, Angola, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Southern Sudan, Eritrea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.