Want innovation? Then create engagement.
If you want your teams or organization to innovate, you need to do one thing well. Provide context and engage your employees. Contrary to what a lot of people think, you cannot inspire innovation without a structure that fosters it. Innovation is rarely free form. It needs an anchor and context can be a great one.
Context boils down to understanding what are the overarching problems we are trying to solve and why the work we are doing matters. This converts workhorses into strategists and having a team full of strategic thinkers who focus on the long term impact of their work results in innovation.
In a 2013 HBR survey on employee engagement, over seventy percent of employees attribute engagement key to being productive, but only less than twenty five percent feel that they are engaged. Cultures such as this, can never inspire innovation.
There are several ways in which you can inspire innovation. The first step is to create a transparent culture where context is easy to obtain. From that point onwards, it is about inspiring the teams to go after the problems without a penalty for failure.