Innovation isn’t just for entrepreneurs and corporations—even in Michigan, businesses large and small are finding ways to drive innovative thinking. Your team has creative ideas that can bring about innovation, but you need to empower them first! Below are 3 practical tactics you can implement to cultivate innovative thinking in your organization.

Reward Creativity

Recognition and praise are core components of workplace fulfillment, but they can fall by the wayside without a dedicated channel in place to encourage this behavior. A study by O.C. Tanner saw that companies that place an emphasis on recognition have seen a 45% in employee engagement, but many companies don’t offer a formal place for recognition to happen.

Recognition tools like Sugar Cubes, 7geese, and YouEarnedIt provide a single visible channel for your team to commend and reward each other, and visibility is a key element. When passing along kudos becomes visible to the whole team (including leadership), it can become self-perpetuating—praise and recognition is passed back and forth between employees, and by highlighting behavior like collaboration and risk-taking, you’re promoting innovative behavior within your team.

Create an employee-first office environment

Employees that can choose how to work are the ones who’ll be the most productive and the most engaged. Some workers may perform better at a desk in a quiet room, while others could perform their best working in an active common space. An Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) study shows that 32% of workers cite “being able to work anywhere within the office” as the biggest contributing factor to their creativity.

You can start by flexing the space you already have—invite coworkers to use the conference room as workspace during open blocks of time, or rearrange your own office to work as a co-working space. When you start to see how people like to work, this could lead to an office rearrangement or even implementing a mobility strategy if it fits your culture. By empowering your employees to engage with work in their own way, you’re empowering them to bring their own fresh ideas to their workflow.

Practice team-based decision making

Team buy-in is a huge piece in driving team engagement and creativity, but many organizations still make decisions from a top-down perspective that misses out on their team’s opinions and ideas. A Salesforce survey found that 40% of employees believe their decision makers “consistently fail” at seeking buy-in before starting decisions.

Team-based decision making is a simple way to find buy-in, and it can be easy. When launching a new project , take stock of the teams who will be most affected by them. Identify people from those groups, and hold a low-pressure meeting to gain their perspective. They’ll bring thoughts and suggestions that could improve the plan, and they’ll be fulfilled in being part of the process, instead of being given a mandate.It exercises creativity, improves collaboration, and will engage those employees with the plan as you move forward on it.

These 3 ideas are easy ways to cultivate creativity, fresh ideas and, in turn, innovation. Try one and see how much more creative your team can be. Has your team come up with other ideas or did you try one of these and see an increase in energy? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter.

If you’re looking for more transformative innovation, the kind that looks 2-3 years down the road, you want to get more buy-in from all areas of the organization. A great way to do that is with an Innovation Workshop, which brings together different teams and roles to identify and prioritize projects to focus your team’s effort. Learn more about the Innovation Workshop here.