4 Easy Ways to Help Build Innovation into Your Company

Keith Krach
October 18, 2016

Entrepreneurs and the businesses that they establish create many benefits for American consumers as well as the United States economy. Startups - and the entrepreneurs behind them - can inspire social change, stimulate economic growth, aid in community development, and drive industries forward into the future.

The startups that see the greatest success and have the most significant impact, however, are those who operate with innovation at the core of their cultures and business goals. Innovation transforms industries, leads to the development of new standards, and makes better, more effective products and services for all to enjoy.

Startup leaders looking to make their companies successful should consider building innovation into the core of their companies in the following four ways:

1. Adopt a “fail forward” mentality.

In the digital age, being innovative requires business leaders to be comfortable taking risks and to be equipped to start over quickly when a risk does not pay off. Additionally, while some business leaders see failure as a liability and live in fear of it, the innovative entrepreneur recognizes that failure drives progress and finds ways to derive value from it.

In fact, according to a study by the Social Science Research Network, entrepreneurs who have previously experienced failure in an attempt to launch a business have a greater chance of seeing success than first-time entrepreneurs.

To embrace failure as a natural part of the development process also allows employees to experiment with bolder ideas. Startup leaders shouldn’t encourage failure directly. Instead, they should make room for employees to take risks by pursuing innovative ideas and teaching them to start again quickly when they do not achieve the outcome they desire.

2. Be flexible about the details.

Innovation can’t flourish in a rigidly controlled work environment. Startup leaders should not focus solely on the measurable details of innovative projects, like timelines, resources, and budgets.

While reasonable time and financial parameters should still be observed, they should not represent the whole of what a startup leader values in a project, as this leaves little room for creativity. Innovative work should not be considered through the typical template, but rather be measured by a set of guiding principles.

Additionally, it is important to grant your employees plenty of autonomy to work independently and resist the urge to micromanage the details of every team member’s work yourself. Studies show that employees who have a stronger power of choice in the workplace perform better, are more innovative, and find more satisfaction in their positions and overall workplaces than those with a weak power of choice.

As the leader of an innovative startup, it is important to know when to grab the reins and when to give your team members the freedom that they need to put out great work.

3. Hire the right team.

An innovative business culture within your startup cannot be cultivated without the right people on your team. When seeking out new employees, leaders should consider asking more creative interview questions in order to distinguish true innovators from traditional workers.

Potential employees who prove themselves useful in creating a culture of innovation are “idea people.” They demonstrate a strong ability for creative problem-solving, ask bold questions, do well at adapting to unfamiliar or unanticipated circumstances, and are not discouraged by obstacles.

Another key factor in creating an innovative team at your startup is diversity. Hiring employees with a wide range of strengths, experiences, and perspectives allows your firm to generate a much greater variety of new ideas.

Studies over the last few years have shown that companies with a diverse set of leaders are more likely to capture new markets and experience growth than businesses whose leaders have similar backgrounds and skillsets. Startup leaders should apply this hiring approach at all levels of their companies and watch an innovative culture take root.

4. Be idea-friendly.

As a startup leader, surrounding yourself with a diverse pool of talent is only going to yield innovation if your team feels comfortable suggesting their ideas. If your employees fear being ridiculed for suggesting outlandish ideas or have to worry about being punished for failure, it will stymie valuable creativity.

Focus instead on being an open leader employees feel comfortable coming to with any kind of idea or suggestion. Ask challenging questions and encourage your team to do the same. Seek out multiple viewpoints and inspire curiosity in employees at every level of your operations.

It is also important to remember that the next big idea may not always come from the places you expect. If you have high expectations when hiring for every position within your organization, from the interns to the experts, good ideas may come from anywhere. If someone has an idea, be open to taking the time to listen regardless of what his or her position is within the company.

Keith Krach

Keith Krach is Chairman of DocuSign, The Global Standard for Digital Transaction Management.