"Google is a fine example, where they give their folks a certain amount of time every week so they can go explore stuff," says Paul Avender, a Calgary-based partner in advisory services with Grant Thornton LLP. "Luckily, they are highly profitable, so they can support all that. Smaller organizations need to be much more focused. There needs to be a good filtering mechanism."
Develop a way to fail fast
"Yes, you want people to be able to take chances and innovate, but you don't want them to persist forever and ever and waste a lot of money, time and energy," Mr. Avender says. The evaluation should be relatively quick, although not so fast as to squelch creativity. Once it becomes clear that an idea is not viable, it's best to toss it and move on to the next opportunity, he says.
Recruit inventive thinkers
But make sure they are not total cultural misfits. "There's a fine balance there. Bringing in a total creative to a more meat-and-potatoes industrial kind of business might seem like a great idea, but I'm not sure there would be a cultural fit," Mr. Avender says.