Innovation is essential to the growth of most businesses. Developing new products and services, and implementing changes to improve the way you do things, helps you remain competitive and ready to meet the ever-changing demands of consumers. External networking is one way to find new ideas to fuel innovation, but some research suggests that internal networking is just as valuable for increasing innovation.
Forming partnerships with universities and research institutes, sharing ideas with competitors and soliciting input from customers can all lead to useful information, but building the type of relationships that result in quality sharing takes time. Instead of having large numbers of employees networking outside of your organization, choose your best networkers to participate in your external networking program. Allow them to spend a significant amount of time forming deep relationships so they can better understand the ideas they acquire to better implement them. Forming fewer quality relationships is more effective than just skimming many different sources for ideas.
Time for processing and absorbing new ideas also needs to be prioritized. Make sure that external networking is not hurting productivity levels. Your power networkers should have enough in-house time to sift through new information and start translating it into workable ideas that others can implement. This includes sharing information throughout your organization.
Don't underestimate the value of internal networking. Too many employees spend their days at their own desks rarely interacting with anyone outside of their own departments. Foster collaboration in your company by mapping out ways for employees to brainstorm together, share ideas and regularly communicate throughout your organization. Internal networks are exceptionally well-suited to finding areas that need improvement and solving current problems. They also help with employee development and provide leaders with more information about employee strengths and compatibilities for developing highly innovative teams in the future.
Just like some employees prove to be exceptionally proficient at external networking, some employees will show aptitude for understanding the internal workings of your company and moving ideas between departmental boundaries. Enlist these employees to grow your internal networks. Consider events and meetings specifically coordinated for sharing ideas as well as more informal networking opportunities. Add easy-to-use communication tools and collaboration applications to your lineup of digital tools, allowing employees to communicate from their own offices, or encourage more use of these tools if they are already in place.
To take your innovation network to the next level, work on fully integrating both your external and internal networks. Your best networkers in each area need to know each other and communicate regularly. You want ideas gleaned during external networking to move smoothly to your internal networking experts who are in a position to share this information with the right employees to develop it into workable projects for future growth.
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