The most innovative products and ideas do not always originate from the largest companies, nor from the youngest companies or the richest companies. They come from companies with energetic employees. Do you want to be innovative? Then look around you and create the optimal working atmosphere!

What do you see when you look around? Do you see enthusiastic, energetic and lively colleagues? Do you feel like this yourself? Do you see employees who are of importance, as they are involved within the company and have a healthy degree of enthusiasm? Companies with employees like this have the key to successful innovation. They know how to create an atmosphere of freedom and, yes a cliché, happiness. The employees enjoy what they do, which leads to effectiveness and productivity.

This positive working atmosphere leads to the creation of innovative ideas and products. I will go one step further: it is in fact a requirement. Do you want to make innovative products? Then first ensure there is social innovation.

Social innovation

Social innovation is a new concept and has no fixed definition. Often it is the atmosphere which prevails within a company. It describes an atmosphere from employee involvement in both the company's vision and decision-making within a company. To sum up: employees receive and take on more responsibility.

I myself am not a manager or employer but a very satisfied employee, who does not know how easy it is for an employer to loosen the proverbial strings. But what I have learned is how important it is to share them with employees. Obviously, a good balance must be found. After all, it is not the intention that employees take over the work of managers, but rather to get them and keep them involved in the organization. The secret to all this lies in three concepts: expectation management, communication and trust.

Manage expectations

Social innovation is only possible when everyone knows what is expected of them. Do you want your employees to think out-of-the-box and provide input for a company or a product? Then explain to what extent this is possible. On the other hand, it is important for managers to know what contribution they can expect from employees and to what extent manage these contributions. This will prevent disappointments and conflicts. If the expectations are realistic and reasonable, it increases the involvement and enthusiasm of employees.

Be honest when communicating!

It really is the case: honest and open communication is crucial. This seems non-specific, but in practice many employees seem to keep their criticism and opinion to themselves on a regular basis. What you should try to create is an organization where everyone gets the opportunity to express themselves. Only then will you get involvement. Without openness, you can try to innovate as much as you want, but to no avail.

Trust one another

Both expectation management and open communication lead to the third pillar of social innovation: trust. This is especially relevant between different levels in a company, as there is often misunderstanding and mistrust. By changing this and ‘rewarding’ employees with confidence and freedom, you will get something in return and this is often very valuable.

Google and Topicus are perfect examples of this. They organize hackathons whereby the employees are left completely free for a short period (usually a day or two) to tackle a problem on their own or in teams. This is the moment where social innovation turns into technical innovation. This autonomy offered translates to new ideas, products, services or solutions to solve current problems. The results are often extremely valuable and sometimes even ground-breaking.

Take another look

Ok, take another look around you. Do you see entrepreneurs, full of energy, who would do anything to create a great product? Do you see people with the self-confidence to suggest ideas without the risk of being shut down? Are you able to offer input to the management of your company? Do you feel that your work matters? And most importantly are you proud of what you do?

If the answer to all these questions is a resounding 'Yes!' then you have nothing to worry about. In fact, chain yourself to your desk and whatever you do, don’t leave. You are sitting on the perfect spot where good ideas arise. If your answers are 'no' or a doubtful murmur, then there is room for improvement. Let people around you know that things could be different. If they are open to it, there is room for real improvement, which is to the benefit of the organization and all employees. If there is no room for social innovation in your organization? Then come and meet Topicus!