Tuesday, 20 September 2016 16:26

Four Ways to Drive Innovative Thinking in Your Business

There is almost no argument among successful business leaders that creative thinking is important. From our perspective at Baillie Lumber, we’re strong believers in our employees’ potential to come up with creative ideas and solutions to issues as they emerge. Creativity is one of the qualities we’re constantly working on to grow and refine in our company culture. We strive to have everyone in the organization know they are encouraged to practice innovating thinking regardless what their role is.

Why is this trait so important? First of all, new ideas and ways of doing things have to come from somewhere—and it’s no longer viable to imagine innovation can only come about from the top down.

When you get your workforce actively involved, amazing things can happen. Creativity offers “alternative solutions to tough, complex problems,” notes online marketing expert Jayson DeMers. “It helps people improve their workflows and approaches, and most importantly, it inspires people, leading to a happier, more invested team.”

hardwood lumber inspectionWe have found this to be successful time and time again. Whether it be the suggestion for a new way to sort a hardwood lumber species that helps a customer increase their yields, or a better way to kiln dry lumber to create move valuable products, suggestions from engaged employees, thinking creatively and looking for better solutions is important.

If you feel your team’s creative potential remains untapped, maybe one of the following techniques could help you empower and motivate your employees to become genuinely innovative thinkers on behalf of your business.

Ask questions and invite 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 employees are telling you. Encouraging innovative thinking doesn’t add up to 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 “creative breaks & scheduling.” In a manufacturing setting, we know 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.

Non-standard breaks in the workday could promote problem solving. People need time to think. As Mr. DeMers notes, “When workers aren’t fixated on precise punctuality, waiting out the clock, or rushing back from lunch, they have more time to decompress and land naturally on abstract solutions.”

Recognize and reward 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 Parallel Edged Lumber, certain rift & quartered white oak sorts, timber mats, special veneer hardwood log offers and different black walnut sorts all came from employees thinking out of the box!

If you have other practices that have helped you develop a culture of creative thinking let us know. We would welcome the discussion!

Tony Cimorelli
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