If you were to search the “About Us” or Mission Statement of nearly every tech company in North America, you would see the word “Innovation” prominently featured.

Everybody claims to value innovation, but few companies live up to that promise. Even fewer companies know how to foster actual innovation within their own team, and a few companies will actually poison innovation without knowing it.

How do you build a company of true innovators? How do you establish yourself as a company that doesn’t just use the word innovation as a buzzword, while finding employees who use it as more than a resume filler?

Look for Entrepreneurs, Not Employees

Maybe it’s time to rethink your hiring practices.

Yes, you’re looking to hire employees, but that doesn’t mean you’re looking for worker bees. You should be looking for entrepreneurs and owners.

Employees punch out at 5:30 every day. However, people with an entrepreneurial mindset are always on the clock mentally. They’re reading about technology on their train ride home, or listening to tech podcasts in their car.

You want candidates who have launched their own business or product, even if it failed.

How do you get an entrepreneur to come back from freedom to the 9-5 world?

Don’t Say You Value Innovation, Show Them You Do

Too many companies say they encourage their employees to work on passion projects… but only once the real work is done. Well, these passion projects are the real work and they’re what move a company forward.

Google is the undisputed heavyweight champions of this, and it’s a major reason why you will use at least one of their products today and every day after this.

They encourage their employees to use 20% of their time to work on side projects. It’s so deeply ingrained in their culture that it’s not just encouraged, it’s expected.

If you truly provide this type of experience, you won’t have to do much recruiting, because your employees will tell all of their friends and former coworkers that they need to work with you. On the other side of things, if your employees feel your commitment to innovation is all talk, that’s what they’ll tell their friends.

Take More Risks

Marketplaces are never changed by safe moves. Encourage your employees to fail. It’s OK to fall down, get dirty and break things.

Even if your employee wants to passionately pursue something that (seemingly) may not necessarily move the needle forward for your business (yet), trust your employees. The idea for this project is resonating with this employee for a reason. There is likely something there you just don’t see yet. Give them the opportunity to prove you wrong.

The pursuit of a game-changing idea should make people nervous, or it’s likely not going to really shake things up. Make sure your employees have the time and freedom to “play” with ideas, and they will eventually give you one that will change everything.