Few would argue with the notion that innovation is the lifeblood of successful and competitive businesses. Yet despite nearly half (40%) of Australian business leaders believing they must innovate for survival, only 25% reported innovation was a core business value at their company.
If you’re a company that’s stuck in the grind of ‘business as usual’, technology may hold the key to unlocking your employees’ hidden potential for innovation. (And it doesn’t have to break the bank either.)
Here are 5 ways technology can support innovation in the workplace.
Improved communication and collaboration
There’s a reason why so many companies are trying to break down silos within the business and foster more collaboration – improved communication frees the flow of ideas, allowing for better insights and faster decision-making. Deloitte has even put a dollar amount on the benefits of collaboration, estimating that quality improvements brought about by collaboration are worth around $2517 per employee and manager per year.
Collaborative platforms like Google Docs or Slack allow people to share files, collate discussions around particular topics, centralise knowledge and work on documents simultaneously. This means you can get on with the business of working together without any of the frictions and frustrations that often go with it (‘Where did that email end up?’, ‘Why haven’t they got that document back to me yet?’ etc.).
Video and voice conferencing technology, such as Zoom, can help to tear down communication barriers, which is particularly helpful if your team is spread out geographically. Interactive whiteboard technology like Webex or Jamboard also gives your team the freedom of brainstorming on a whiteboard combined with the ability to pull information, images and documents directly from the web, while again allowing team members to participate from wherever they might be.
Improved collaboration strengthens ties across the employee organisation chart, including senior management. Better accessibility to managers, directors and the C-suite – whose buy-in is vital when it comes to actually implementing ideas – can smoothen the path to innovation, allowing for creative ideas to become reality much faster.
Increased efficiency and productivity
Just about every job is susceptible to automation to some degree. Many CRMs and marketing automation platforms, for example, automate tasks like data capturing or lead nurturing. And while the idea of machines ‘taking away’ certain aspects of our jobs can be somewhat anxiety-provoking, automation can often be good for workers (when implemented mindfully and in conjunction with good workplace design).
Technology can foster innovation simply by making our lives easier. By partially or completely automating repetitive and mundane tasks, employees have more time to engage in higher-value tasks such as strategising and analysis, which of course often leads to innovation.
Better access to data
Data is essential to innovation – without accurate, up-to-date data, innovation simply isn’t possible. Today, technology plays an essential role in information gathering, from a simple IoT sensor picking up a single data point, to dashboards that help make sense of the information, to cloud data stores that hold and compute our vast swathes of data.
Getting a good handle on data visualisation using tools like Tableau can also help pave the way to innovation, making data manipulation and analysis far easier, thereby putting innovative ideas at your employees’ fingertips.
Innovation means coming up with new ways to do things – and this, of course, requires a great deal of creativity. But employees who are sitting at the same desks, doing the same things day in and day out, aren’t going to be feeling particularly inspired.
Technology can help here, too. Collaboration tools like those mentioned above can be perfect for a remote workforce, allowing people to feel connected and involved no matter where they’re working from. You can also use technology to support flexibility within the workplace – sensor solutions, for example, can give you real-time information on things like desk and office availability, minimising time wastage and helping to facilitate a more agile, activity-based work environment.
The regular change of scenery, and interaction with different people in the organisation, that comes with such flexible work arrangements can do wonders when it comes to helping people think outside of the box.
There’s also a lot to be said for a fast, reliable wifi connection! After all, it’s pretty hard to be innovative these days without internet access.
Aside from these direct impacts on innovation, giving your staff flexibility at work can increase employee engagement, which in turn makes them more willing to search for and develop ideas that will benefit the company, rather than simply going through the motions of the daily grind.
It may surprise you to know that improving your employees’ wellbeing can also lead to innovation – after all, happy, healthy employees are creative, engaged employees! And believe it or not, tech can play a role here as well.
Things like wellness portals, where employees can do things like book gym classes or monitor certain aspects of their health, can give employees the tools they need to stay fighting fit. Sit-stand desks can help promote exercise and movement throughout the day, helping employees to perform at their peak. Even a simple app that reminds workers to stand up and move about on a regular basis can be a way to get the creative juices flowing!
Giving employees more control over their environment can also help boost employee wellbeing. For example, smart lighting solutions that give staff individual access to the lighting in their particular area allows them to adjust the lighting as necessary depending on the time of day or task at hand, ensuring optimal working conditions at all times. Similarly, individualised climate control, which enables employees to adjust the temperature in their particular area, can also help ensure employee comfort throughout the day, so they can focus fully on the job in front of them.
A culture of innovation
Fostering a culture of innovation is not just about providing your employees with the right tools – it’s also about seamlessly integrating these tools into your workplace design so they become as much a part of day-to-day business as email or the photocopier. Ensuring employees have access to communication tools in collaborative hubs, or conferencing software and equipment in meeting rooms, for example, can ensure everyone actually makes use of the technologies at their disposal, so they can get on with the business of innovating.
Is innovation a core value for your business? A workplace design partner can help ensure your office reflects this. To learn more about how a workplace design partner can foster innovation at your business, check out our free ebook How to choose a workplace design partner. Download it now!