Dennis M. Hanno | Wheaton College president | IDEA4Africa founder and CEO
Businesses and organizations that are innovative typically share one characteristic: a culture that prizes creativity and empowers employees to contribute to innovation – whether it be launching a new venture or seeking more-efficient, more-effective ways to deliver on an existing product or service. That kind of culture doesn’t happen by accident. It requires a commitment to transparency and to making the time to listen to your workforce.
Consider this: Substantive innovation starts with understanding market and financial position. This is very likely sensitive information that may seem best kept to a select few, but employees need this context. Equally important is providing a clear vision for where the organization is headed. That’s both a source of inspiration and critical intelligence to think strategically.
Ultimately, this is about two-way communication. During my two decades as a university dean, a college president and the founder and CEO of the global nonprofit IDEA4Africa, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of creating time and space to listen and learn from employees. Good ideas can come from anywhere, and employees need to know that the leaders understand the reality that rank-and-file workers experience on a daily basis. Listening carefully and sharing business goals builds the trust that is essential to motivating employees to take the risk of venturing beyond “the way it’s always been done.” That leads to innovation.