When it comes to driving innovation, keep it simple.
A Global Brand Simplicity Index by Siegel+Gale, a brand strategy firm, found that, in most instances, complexity is killing innovation in the workplace. Respondents were asked to rank 21 workplace tasks by their overall simplicity, and promoting an “innovative idea” ranked 18.
So what can senior executives do to make it simpler for employees to innovate? First and foremost, they need to clearly communicate the values that unite employees. This guides employees’ behavior and helps them understand their role.
Just as important is finding simpler ways to encourage and engage in the workplace activities likely to result in innovative ideas. Empowering employees to share ideas, investigate new approaches, experiment and sometimes fail helps companies stay on the cutting edge. By fostering creative thinking through a culture of openness, innovation can shine through.
Coordinating internal and external resources to speed up execution is also critical. In other words, act quickly on good ideas that come through the pipeline so employees can do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. Nothing will kill employees’ desire to create new ideas faster than a failure to implement them. After all, what’s the point of being creative if it leads nowhere?
Another key finding from the Siegel+Gale index survey is that most employees understand their company’s mission — as a matter of fact, it’s rated as one of the simplest aspects of work. Despite this clarity regarding mission, however, employees ranked understanding opportunities for career growth near the bottom. Although employees know why their company exists on a broad level, they can’t seem to determine their own path up the corporate ladder. They also have difficulty with other important workplace skills, including how to ask for a pay raise and achieving work-life balance.
To get employees pointed in the right direction, they need to be motivated by a sense of pride that comes with contributing to a firm’s success. As a result, it’s critical to create clear, simple and straightforward communications that connect the dots between a company’s values, the employee’s role and the contributions that lead to professional advancement.
According to the survey, “getting along with peers” ranked as the most simple work aspect. This sends a clear message to learning leadership: connect employees with each other and keep them connected. Large or small, organizations that define roles, connect people and support collaboration replace anonymity and isolation with empowerment and satisfaction.
The results of the survey also showed that employees across regions and companies of all sizes appreciate the clear divisions of labor synonymous with big firms. Respondents to the survey said they find it simpler to work within well-defined structures and hierarchies, while on a personal level they enjoy more tailored responsibilities.
The lesson: smaller may feel simpler overall, but there’s widespread support for a well-organized enterprise of any size.
The truth is that simplicity isn’t easy for any company. Moving away from overly complex communications and touchpoints is a constant battle, especially as it pertains to employees and internal processes.
And while work may be hard, not all of what goes into doing work should be complicated. Like consumers, employees thrive on clear and simple communications and interactions. Those organizations that deliver simplicity consistently in the workplace will stand out from the competition through a culture where innovation flows more freely and frequently.
Howard Belk is the co-CEO and chief creative officer of Siegel+Gale. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.