Aspect of in-company communication for innovation
Company internal communication is a crucial aspect of forming innovation-friendly environment, in which employees can effectively apply their expertise and creativity for achieving business goals.
Creative people need “emotional ownership” in the goals and objectives, which becomes even more important speaking about the corporate world where such people are not co-founders but employees. (Sarasvathy, 2008) Establishing right communicational practices very much contributes to developing this kind of ownership and makes innovation possible.
It is important to contribute to all aspects of internal company communication which are: transparency, constant documenting, openness to feedback, cross-departmental communication, external events.
In the context of communication, transparency usually means availability of information regarding company vision, goals and project specific details. Transparency is crucial to internal communication because it breeds trust, accountability, and open dialogue. If the team feels as though they are being left in the dark on certain matters, they may be afraid to ask questions and share their thoughts on those matters. Not all information can be made available to everyone, of course, but maintaining at least some transparency can have tremendous effects on the harmony and rapport within the company. (Bovet, 2017 & Rozen, 2016)
Although company information transparency is more mindset rather than policy, it is possible to increase it by following some specific practices. According to many examples of success, information availability is much easier to achieve when practicing documenting. Active usage of documentation tools such as company wiki, tasks board, weekly mail lists etc makes it much easier to find information. (Milinovich, 2008) Information availability contributes to overall company environment because it is connected to emotional ownership and at the same time is a source for innovative practices.
Often happens, that management has arguments against transparency as they are afraid to overwhelm the employees. In this sense, it is important to remember that lack of information is often underestimated. However, by using right tools and practices, it is possible to provide information upon request. For example, for weekly sharing about projects, it is possible to use mailing lists (open for any employee to join) rather than direct emails. Cross-company chat solutions like Slack, Flowdock or Microsoft Teams are even more flexible as they provide channels to join or not. (Bovet, 2017) The freedom this approach provides also develops employees’ awareness of how they are trusted in the company, which in turn translates into employees’ engagement.
Another aspect of good communication practices is openness. Allowing people to step out into the open and talk about how they feel has both helped them bond and accept ownership over the company. (Milinovich, 2015) In most cases, in startup environment “karma” means more than an official title. Accordingly, in corporate organization, creative people should not feel being limited by their official position and speak openly. This applies to both giving feedback and sharing ideas. Speaking of feedback, it is needed to remember that getting feedback needs to be followed by actions. The best organizations are the ones that not only solicit constructive feedback but actually do something with it. (Milinovich, 2015)
Unlike startups, corporate organizations tend to structure themselves. In many cases, these structures demonstrate strong vertical connections but lack of horizontal connections. Such structure is quite an obstacle to any innovation process. Taking this fact into account, internal communication should concentrate on building cross-departmental connections and other kinds of horizontal interactions. Company-wide conversations, whether they are organized as regular meetings and open forums or with a range of online communication tools, form special eco-system friendly to innovation initiatives and processes. Besides sharing information, horizontal connections ensure cross-departmental collaboration, which makes it possible for employees to act in uncertain environments like entrepreneurs do. (Rozen, 2016 & Sarasvathy, 2008)
External events are also a crucial part of company communication strategy. They provide an opportunity to develop informal relationships and trust. Meeting outside the office changes the employees’ environment which reflects their perception of each other and their relationships. Combined with positive emotions such events bring, this contributes into their micro-environments which, in turn, form the whole company ecosystem.
Bovet C, (2017) 17 Internal Communications Best Practices for 2017
Milinovich J. (2015) How Fast-Growing Startups Can Fix Internal Communication Before It Breaks
Rozen M. (2016) How to Create a Company Culture of Communication
Sarasvathy, S. D. (2008) What makes entrepreneurs entrepreneurial?