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Innovation is not something that springs in and out of fashion. In this article, we explore ways in which leadership can create a culture of innovation in the workplace.

Innovation is not faddish.

Over the years, I have realized that the ability to freely ideate and dive into brainstorming sessions – is a luxury that most leaders can no longer afford.

When you’re up against a rapidly changing financial landscape, you need to be agile to respond effectively and innovate in new ways.

Today, most organizations are still working on that one ‘aha moment’ that they had right at the genesis of it all! Strategic foresight is missing from most boardroom discussions. Teams are looking to meet deadlines day in and out while putting out fires along the way – leaving them no time for futuristic thinking.

This little piece of humor from Chris Gledhill (Independent FinTech Advisor, Futurist, Writer & Speaker) on Twitter is apt to drive in my point.

Take it from me when I say that innovation needs to be woven into your company culture – so much so that it becomes a strategic capability driving value and growth. The leadership teams are tasked with the responsibility to build cultures that celebrate ideation and innovation.

Cultivating innovation in the workplace: The onus is on the leadership

The World Economic Forum’s ‘Future of Jobs Report 2020’ has rated innovation as one of the top skills that will be demanded in the workplace for the next five years.

Innovation in the workplace not only promotes growth but is an important factor to accelerate an organization’s pace of change.

Make no mistake – innovation must be a top-down initiative.

A leadership that is invested in futuristic thinking, is the cornerstone for building a culture that is big on innovation! What we see today is a huge gap between the aspiration to innovate and the ability to put this into action. 

To those in the leadership seat, I know while you’re weathering the road ahead – fuelling innovation might seem challenging. But you are in a position where connecting the dots comes easily and the way you behave sends strong signals to your employees. Be sure to lead by example and to create an environment that is deep-rooted in progression and innovation.

My mentors and friends in the industry have set great examples for innovative leadership. From what I’ve learned over the years, here are a few qualities that will help you stimulate innovation in the workplace:

  • Have an optimistic outlook, always look for opportunities 
  • Be a strategic thinker – consider the big picture while weighing in market trends and competition
  • Excellent communication coupled with powerful imagination skills is a must – you should be able to build and sell a great concept
  • Be brave enough to disrupt the status quo 

How can leaders encourage an innovative mindset in the workplace?

Here are 5 ways in which the top management and leadership can effectively drive innovation and accomplish strategic goals:

  • Put the customers first

    Customer obsession should be at the core of everything that you do. Innovative leaders take time out to study their customers – understand their problems, their preferences, and shifting needs. Staying in the know about changing customer expectations will help you innovate and delight customers like never before.

  • Encourage continuous learning

    Stay curious and be the advocates of change in your organization. Encourage your employees to be committed to learning new things and to actively seek knowledge in every job that they take up to do.

  • Strategic foresight is key

    Look to the future and envision your company’s growth for the next five or ten years. Drill in futuristic thinking with your teams – this will help them gauge your customer’s next move and gear up for shifting market conditions.

  • Introduce the space for innovation

    Allow employees to take time out of their busy schedules to tune into the ideation and progressive thinking space. This could mean adding regular brainstorming sessions to the routine and building opportunities for employees to think out-of-the-box while not being overwhelmed with deadlines.

  • Reward and recognize

    Not only should you incentivize employees for coming up with great ideas but you need to recognize them for making the effort to learn, regardless of what the outcome may be.

Over to you

The sooner we realize that innovation is not something that springs in and out of fashion, the better for us all.
Fostering innovation in the workplace makes employees feel that their opinions are valued and builds a culture of trust. We at Opus believe that creating a collaborative culture paves the way for sustained innovation.

Follow me on LinkedIn and get insights about the latest trends from the financial services industry!

T M Praveen is a highly accomplished global payments leader with over 20 years of experience. A veteran in the payments industry, Praveen has immense wealth of insights to share in payments innovations, emerging technologies, FinTech, and financial services.

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