Ambiguity, failure, conflicting views, challenging thought-tracks, differing opinions and letting go of what is safe and predictable: innovation is not always the easiest path to choose. But a company in transformation has no other choice. As humans we are driven by challenges and rewarded by overcoming them. According to every available study we all get the most enjoyment from our work when using our natural capability to be creative.
The world is facing major challenges and changes brought on by phenomena such as climate change and digitalization – for a company, the capability to adapt and change accordingly is a question of life or death. This is actually nothing new: a company’s capability to inspire innovation in its employees, translating ideas into value creating innovations and putting them successfully into practice has always been key in making a company sustain in the long run.
A creative, innovative atmosphere is not however something to just switch on. A large company like UPM is hard-pressed to offer the same atmosphere of enthusiasm and drive to our own employees following several years of streamlining and short term performance improvement. Still, there are ways to encourage innovation and fire up the innovativeness in each of us.
To encourage innovation we must make it a part of our everyday agenda, bring it to life in every project and interaction. Not always at the forefront but bubbling under our every action. Could we do this differently? Is there a better solution to be found? Innovation does not necessarily mean a new product or technology – it can also mean a new business model, a smooth redesigned internal work flow, a new way of operating or even a novel cost reduction initiative.
For an individual at work it can mean keeping an eye out for interesting projects and actively looking for personal inspiration. Voicing an opinion, even when it contradicts the opinion of the rest of the group. The excitement and passion of an individual or team is contagious. It creates a positive spiral within the company and creates an atmosphere where individuals are brave to step out of the box. In such an environment or culture failing every once in a while is only considered part of risk taking, experimentation and learning.
While co-operating with start-up companies one can sense the excitement and high energy focus. We at UPM can truly learn from them and replicate the start-up spirit in all we do. Innovation is at the core of our Biofore strategy. If it does not shine in your work week, make an effort to instill creative thinking in yourself and encourage it in your colleagues. It’s not easy, but I promise you it pays off big time.
In the spirit of innovation – and accepting the possibility to fail – I end this blog post with a great TED talk about failing fast as a technique for lasting success. Have a great World Innovation and Creativity Day!
The World innovation and Creativity Day has been celebrated on 21 April since 2001. The day has its origins in Canada. Join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #WCIW2016.