Leaders need to create a welcoming environment for ideas. One option is an idea management system where anyone can submit ideas and be incentivised for successful ones — this frees the employee from fear of judgement or ‘repercussions’. For example, global semiconductor industry leader Micron rewards employees in Singapore for experimenting with new ways of doing things, such as through incentive programs that reach all the way to frontline factory workers. This empowers new improvements in safety and productivity without relying on top-down instructions.
In addition to merely soliciting ideas, companies can take it one step further by establishing internal platforms to incubate innovation. One such example is Singapore Airlines. Staff can submit ideas for evaluation through their KrisLab platform, and once an idea has been approved, the digital innovation lab team provides seed funding and expertise to develop the idea into a proof of concept.
Creating space to innovate doesn’t require a company-wide initiative. You can start in your own team. Try a ‘no judgement’ rule, where saying things like “that’s a bad idea” or “that won’t work” is disallowed. Invite experimentation by sharing your past mistakes and what you learnt from them. This sets the tone that mistakes are accepted, and welcomes learning from failure.