It’s often joked that if you laid all economists end to end they would not reach a conclusion. The inability of academics and business leaders to reach an understanding about what is undeniably good or bad or an economy may be part of why economics is referred to as “the dismal science.” Yet beneath the countless points of contention no one disagrees that innovation is a major driving force behind growth and job creation. Indeed, it may be the closest thing to a silver bullet.
Creating an environment that nurtures these creative sparks is much easier said than done, however. Google, a particularly successful example, famously insists its engineers dedicate one day per week to work on their own personal projects. Gmail, Google Maps, and Adsense were all once personal projects of Google employees in this program. Truly innovative ideas don’t have to be this grandiose either. The Wright brothers may have invented the airplane, but a modern airline system that spanned the country and built around a business model of charging for tickets is the sum total of many smaller yet significant process innovations that provide one of the most widely used transportation systems today.
In manufacturing, new ideas can have equally far-reaching consequences. For example, a new system that uses sensors to track patient medication compliance with pharmaceutical packaging offers new hope for the global healthcare problem of patient compliance.
These types of innovations also boost employment and drive economies in new and exciting directions. Encouraging innovation should be an integral part of any firm, and there are many tactics you can use to foster a creative environment in your workspace. Support group thinking; innovation is not a solo sport and creating a forum to share and collaborate on new ideas is one of the older and more effective means of sharing new ideas. Never be afraid of failure, but rather embrace it and use it as an opportunity to learn. Create incentives either with bonuses or awards to show recognition to those thinking outside the box. Firms like Bosch Rexroth are going as far as developing partnerships with universities, thus allowing for access to cutting edge research ideas.
There’s much that can be done at the Federal level as well. Tax breaks for research and development, education focusing on 21st century skills, developing an advanced IT system, and broaden an effective intellectual property policy.
In sum, the best thing a firm can do to avoid clinging to outdated practices is to create a culture where ideas are shared openly and new ventures are continuously discussed. The best companies today rely heavily on their dynamism and ability to adapt to a changing landscape. America needs to foster the Creator Economy, and incorporating creative thinking into your strategy is the first step.