Digital transformation has altered workplaces so that they are unrecognizable from their ancestral counterparts. Everything from marketing to software development has been impacted by Web 2.0 and the sheer speed and precision with which data passes in the modern day. If you’re a CIO or other technology leader, how do you make sure innovation in your organization keeps you not only up to date, but moving ahead of your competition? Here are 7 surefire ways to to increase innovation in your organization.

Bring your departments together.

Intellectual stagnation is a creativity killer. If your team hears the same ideas from the same people day in and day out, your innovation will stall to a creeping halt. Bring your departments together to offer fresh perspectives and new ideas, and to change the course of conversation for the better. The networking team or even the janitorial staff may have a gleaming idea for the software development team that would have never been shared otherwise.

You start the conversation.

No one wants to stick their neck out first, especially when it comes to creative ideas. Fear of judgment and ridicule may dominate the silence. So, you start the conversation. Offer ridiculous ideas. Show them that no idea is off limits, and that building on them is key. Ask them questions, and get them talking. Make your meeting room a safe, fun place for ideas to brew.

Write down your ideas. Keep them. Review them often.

Make brainstorming sessions a habit. Have your organization write down all their ideas, however big or small, on a regular basis. Don’t just toss the ones that look silly. It may be the creative spark to answer a big question that has not yet even arisen. Keep them visible, perhaps on a community board, and incentivize those people who come up with the most ideas. Innovation is a numbers game, so the more ideas, the better.

Think fast, implement faster.

While your brainstorming sessions should be speedy and consistent, your implementation must also be quick for true innovation to occur. Test new ideas in the real world. This allows your team to course correct, which is vital for innovation. Even if one is a flop, then you can move forward, choose a new path, and not waste any more time. If your ideas are stuck behind a barrier, you’ll never know, and your competition will have already tested, failed, and found the winning idea while you’re waiting.

“I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” –Thomas Edison

Know what you’re after.

This facet of innovation should lie near and dear to your brand. Who are you as a company? What are you known for, or what do you want to be known for? “Make new ideas,” doesn’t work.

“How do we make our product faster?” “How do we increase customer engagement?” Questions like these frame the creative problem at hand, then you can ask your organization for innovative ideas. A worthless innovation that doesn’t solve a problem is not an innovation at all; it’s just fluff. Keep your innovation targeted.

Ask your customers.

In the age of digital transformation, your customers and fans are a simple click away, so ask them what they want! Is there a common complaint among buyers in your industry? What can you do about it? Things like Twitter surveys, or simply asking your newsletter subscribers what sorts of things they’d like to see or what problems they would like to have solved can provide a cornucopia of fresh brainstorming material.

Nurture the creative process.

A happy home for the creative process is not within the confines of a spreadsheet or Word document. Creativity thrives on freedom and sharing. It may look to a passerby just like staring at the ceiling. It may take the form of a conversation with someone across the office. As long as you are implementing your ideas quickly so there is always a push forward towards project goals, it is safe to give your employees some space to think.

There is a reason companies such as Google are known both for their fun office spaces and employee culture as well as their leadership in innovation. The two concepts are inseparable.

Some ways you can help foster creative activity are to let your employees, at will:

  • Go for a walk
  • Have a chat with their neighbor
  • Work outside
  • Listen to music through headphones

Let the buzz of employee satisfaction carryover into their productivity, and see how quickly change and innovation become staples of your work environment. Let them out of the box, and their ideas will follow.