‘Innovation’ is everywhere. At least the buzzword is. But what is innovation?
When most of us think about innovation we think of Silicone Valley companies like Apple or Facebook. But innovation isn’t exclusive to tech companies.
In fact, innovation is a hallmark of the field of strategic communication. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary innovation is defined as a new idea, device or method. Or the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods.
Innovation in PR
Everyday strategic communication professionals must work to find innovative strategies to develop messages that break through the noise and resonate with target audiences. They must seek out the right channels and technologies that effectively reach the people they need to connect with. And, they need to identify the best methods of evaluating the effectiveness of campaigns and PR activities. Yet, innovation does not come naturally for many organizations. So, here are three tips managers can employ to create a culture of innovation among communication professionals.
3 Tips for Managing Innovation
In order to foster innovation, managers should:
1. Actively recruit and attract a diverse workforce. So many times employers fall into the trap of hiring and cultivating cookie cutter employees. Recruiting graduates from a handful of schools with communications specific degrees. Once hired, employees are trained think one way about solving client problems. Actively casting a wider net to recruit students with different educational, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds from a more diverse group of universities will mean that you’ll have a team of professionals looking at the same problem from different perspectives – something that can help you identify new ways to cut through the clutter.
2. Appetite for failure (FAIL) First Attempt In Learning
“Failure is a necessary part of the innovation process because from failure comes learning, iteration, adaptation, and the building of new conceptual and physical models through an iterative learning process. Almost all innovations are the result of prior learning from failures.”
Edward D. Hess, Professor of Business Administration, Darden Graduate School of Business
Instead of fearing and punishing failure, managers should encourage their teams to identify and analyze them. Utilize failures as learning opportunities to improve and hone ideas and skills. Adopting the mantra FAIL (First Attempt in Learning) means managers encourage employees to take calculated risks in a safe environment where all can learn from mistakes and improve outcomes. In the next staff meeting, why not acknowledge and reward a successful FAIL, praise employees for trying something new and support their learning and development by taking the time to discuss the lesson learned from the FAIL.
3. Reward strategic risk taking. Innovation requires risk taking. Managers need to encourage their employees to take strategic risks. But successful outcomes aren’t the only ones that should be rewarded if you want to foster innovation. Rather, the innovative thinking and strategic calculated risk taking needs to be recognized as well. If only successful outcomes are rewarded there is no incentive for employees to try something new or do something different.
The next time a team member comes to you with a “crazy” idea, ask the tough questions. If they are able to provide you answers you can live with, give them the support they need to make that idea a reality. The next time you or your team attempts to tackle a challenge try taking an innovative approach to solving complex communication challenges. And don’t be afraid to FAIL.
About Dina Martinez
Dina has over 15 years of experience in the private sector developing, leading, and implementing strategic communication initiatives for numerous corporate and non-profit clients. She currently leads Viona Group, a boutique consulting firm. Prior to starting her own firm, she worked at Frost Miller Group, a Bethesda based advertising agency, leading their account team. Before that she spent more than seven years at Discovery Communications where she held a variety communications and marketing positions. Dina holds a M.A. in Public Communication from American University and a B.A. in Public Relations with a Minor in International Relations from American University.
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