In today's fast-paced business environment, innovation can be a key for success. Adapt to changing markets or create new opportunities to stay ahead of the competition can put your business in a favourable position. However, innovation doesn't happen by snapping fingers - it requires a company culture that supports and encourages new ideas, experimentation within your team and business network.
When I acquired Gould Industries, the first and oldest garbage bag manufacturer in Montreal, I wanted to bring innovation as a core value for the business. And you can imagine that bringing a culture of innovation to a team that is used to a traditional work culture established for years now wasn’t easy at all and required a lot of creativity and empathy.
Here is how I made it happen. Keep in mind that it took me few years to implement it and it’s an ongoing job to keep it alive day-to-day, generation-to-generation.
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Step 1 : I’ve put myself in my team shoes
I started by learning how everything works, every role in the company I did it. This way I was able to understand everyones role and understand how their tasks interact with each other. In the end you can’t really innovate something when you don’t know how it works in the first place.
Step 2 : I listened to my team needs
Most of the workers at the factory where there for over 15-20 years. They were able to feed me with their needs, challenges and perspectives on all the aspect of the business. Listening to people not only creates a bond, shows empathy but it also brings you valuable informations about the history of the business. Once you’ve listened to your team you’ll be able to make them part of the narrative of bringing a culture of innovation to your business.
Step 3 : I embraced change
I was open to new ideas, willing to try new things, and I was flexible in my approach. I encourage my employees to challenge the status quo, to think outside the box, and to look for new ways of doing things. And the first thing I did to support that was to give them more flexible schedules, no more 40hrs a week like any other manufacturer.
Step 4 : I encouraged collaboration and fostered a culture of experimentation
Innovation often happens when people from different backgrounds and disciplines come together to share ideas and perspectives. I created opportunities for employees to work together on cross-functional teams, to share ideas, and to learn from each other. I’ve also created a safe space for failure, where employees feel comfortable taking risks and trying new things without fear of reprisal.
Step 5 : I led by example
It's important for leaders to always lead by example. This means demonstrating a commitment to innovation, taking risks, and trying new things. Leaders behaviours set the tone for the rest of the organization and re-enforce the culture of prioritizing innovation. At Gould I transformed the plant by creating one of the largest art mural in Canada to offer my team an environment that reflects the value of creativity and makes them feel proud when they come to work.
Step 6 : I celebrated success
Celebrating successes is one of the most important part of creating a culture of innovation. When employees take risks and try new things, take the time to celebrate their successes, no matter how small. Recognize and reward innovative thinking.
In the end, creating a culture of innovation within my business was an amazing but challenging experience. But I’m proud of the next generation of manufacturer I’ve implemented. You too can make this happen !
Good Luck !
Frederico Panetta | Entrepreneur & Investor