How to create an atmosphere that encourages innovation Featured

7:01pm EDT February 29, 2012

Chip Perry, President and CEO, AutoTrader.com
“I have an idea.” The words are music to a CEO’s ears. In the business world, new ideas are lifeblood; they’re the engine that drives companies forward. And the converse holds true too, unfortunately. Slow down the flow of ideas, and stagnation starts sprouting like mold. A decline in the number of quality suggestions being brought forward can turn a gravy train into a ghost wreck seemingly overnight. So to build a business and make it thrive, executives must develop ways to turn on the idea spigot and keep it flowing full blast. To that end, here, from the recent pages of Smart Business Atlanta, are some thoughts from business leaders on how to do just that. These gentlemen have some ideas.

“One of the hallmarks of successful companies is being open-minded and receptive to ideas for improvement from the employees, who are closer to the work than the executives are. It’s kind of built into your DNA. Either you are or you aren’t receptive. You have to be curious and receptive and then be willing to work with it. Then you need to set up a pattern and a tempo of consistency on this topic. If you do it once, and it goes away — a flash in the pan idea — it becomes not effective. If you do it every year, you’ve been doing it for 10 years, people come to expect it, and it becomes part of the culture.”  — Chip Perry, President and CEO, AutoTrader.com

“I created an [employee] innovation award. The way it works, very simply, is anybody in the company is encouraged — and this is on our website — to submit innovation ideas which benefit not only their particular location — so for example if it’s our Dallas manager or a Dallas sales associate, it may benefit their individual location — but it will also benefit the company as a whole. Through this program, we came up with some great ideas as to things we could do to reduce overhead, and ultimately to maintain jobs. Because our team on the front line are the ones who see this day in and day out — where the opportunities are — better than we do here at our support center.”  — Gregg Paradies, President and CEO, The Paradies Shops Inc.

SUMMARY

  • Be receptive to ideas for improvement.
  • Foster a collaborative environment.
  • Reward employees who suggest innovations.