Unfortunately for a lot of small and medium sized businesses, creating the momentum for change is difficult. Culture controls the effort and the pace of all change within an organization, and a culture that doesn’t want to change will zap the energy from innovation. You can compensate by pushing change from the top down, but as the pace of technology continues to accelerate, the harder and harder it will be compete. You need help from all of your employees to sniff out new advancements and apply them to your business. The only way to do this is by creating a culture that embraces change and makes technology recommendations to help push your company towards your strategic objectives.

So as a business owner how do you do this? How do you get everyone focused, motivated, and ready to accept something different and embrace change? Well it starts with you (of course!), and it requires work, an environment of trust, and a whole lot of transparency. In part one of this series we discuss why a lot of business struggle getting usable ideas from internal teams.

Problem: Nobody wants to recommend any new solutions, or innovative ideas.

This is a very common issue. You set up a meeting to discuss some challenges in the businesses and feel like everyone is waiting for you to solve the problem. You keep pushing and prodding to get someone to share a new idea or concept, but you ultimately give up and feel like you need to take control.

Opportunity: If no one is recommending solutions to problems, or new innovative ways to provide services, it is most likely because they feel they don’t have a seat at the table, or have no voice within the organization. It’s time to take a good look in the mirror and evaluate how you have reacted to their ideas in the past. Although it might be tough to hear, most people like sharing ideas, so if there is silence when you ask them to share, it might be because of previous interactions with them. When they offered a thought, were they shut down immediately, were their thoughts minimized or ignored, or was there potentially a flash of a disappointing look or glance? If any of these are a maybe, you have some trust building to do. Not all ideas are great, but who cares, it takes high volumes of ideas to weed out the ones that have potential. How you react to new ideas will determine how empowered your employees feel, and how likely they are to continue to share. Start the idea generating engine again by rewarding the effort, collectively working through ideas, sharing business objectives so the team has come context. Even try a formal brainstorming session to get the ideas flowing again.CultureDerailingInnovation2

Problem: You are getting ideas, but you don’t feel they are the right ones.

Another common problem. You feel like the team is willing to share ideas, but they don’t seem to really be in line with your company’s direction. They might seem to benefit the employee directly, but they don’t quite tie in with the strategic objectives, or they are too narrowly focused to be considered.

Opportunity: Believe it or not, this is a good problem to have. It means that you have an open culture willing to share ideas. You need to do your best to maintain that. Be positive and reward the efforts being made. The issue is most likely one of two things, either the employees making recommendations do not know what the strategic goals of the organization are, or they do not know how their responsibilities relate to those goals. Take this opportunity to reinforce your company’s Vision, Values, and Mission (here is a great example of a concise, usable VVM statement). Then outline your strategy for achieving your mission, and how each person’s responsibilities tie into the efforts. Going forward, gently reinforce the idea that their suggestions and recommendations should revolve around the strategic goal of the organization as well as their day to day activities.

Once your teams can picture the path, and know how their efforts can influence it, the great ideas will surface. Keep building the trust and focusing everyone’s sight on the end result you are trying to achieve.

Check out part 2, where we discuss culture issues that can kill the execution of new ideas.