January 13th, 2022

TJ Kastning

The “Recruiterproof Companies” series articulates the characteristics which make a company attract and retain good people while being tough to recruit from.

I’m here to tell you innovative companies are tough to recruit from and easy to recruit to. It’s one of the five traits recruiter-proof companies have. Innovative companies are attractive to candidates. Being attractive is critical to hiring the best talent to have the best company. Ergo, great companies must be innovative. Perhaps this is theoretically obvious, but the daily reality will play out differently if careful action isn’t taken. Who wants to work where change is resisted? How do you foster innovation at work as either a member or leader of the team? The greatest generator of innovation is pain. “Necessity is the mother of invention” as they say.

Recognizing when something is annoying or inefficient is a great signal there is room for improvement through innovation. The problem is, we have been doing things as we were taught for a long time. It’s hard to recognize how we can do things differently. You must have a high priority on finding incremental improvement, otherwise, the rut of ‘this is how we have always done things will prove too deep.

Sometimes execution discipline can serve as a barrier to innovation, as it should. After all, reinventing the wheel each time you do something is hardly an innovation. So how do you maintain rigorous efficiency with discipline while also continuously improving through innovation?

1. Hold regular formal or informal innovation meetings. Ask each team-members, especially new ones, to bring one idea about how to improve something. If a whole new idea cannot be brought, at least bring something they find annoying. Often, through collaboration, a team member can offer a solution if someone offers the problem. It’s important to keep your team mentally elastic about solving problems. For example, in our team, we ask everyone to come with a pain-point and, hopefully, some kind of idea about a solution. Then we brainstorm to find an improvement.

2. Build innovation into your culture by actively recognizing innovative thinking. While you have learned to live with certain inconveniences or ‘pain’ in the execution of your work, constantly evaluate if there is a better way to attack the problem. Don’t accept friction, pain, or inconvenience. Find a better way and foster it in others too. How we did it last week is not a good enough reason to do it the same this week. One beautiful side-effect innovative culture produces is people feel free to talk about problems in a productive manner. Complaining makes no sense when there’s a forum specifically designed to elicit complaints and solutions. Take a negative perspective, capture its energy, and direct it to a profitable solution. Of course, all this is moot if you are not an innovative leader. But you are here reading this article, right? You must be innovative, or at least interested in the competitive advantage innovation can give you.

How do you foster productive innovation? Please let us learn from your experience.