You know the old saying: innovate or die. It’s never too early to start creating an innovative work environment for your business to thrive.
The companies that innovate are the ones who lead the way in their industries and beyond. But innovation isn’t something innate. You have to build the conditions needed for it. That means building up a culture of innovation – and building up a team of innovation dynamos.
Organizations will often try to innovate by just throwing money at a problem. But having deep pockets doesn’t necessarily lead to innovation. Instead, you need the right people, the right processes and the right perspective.
Here’s how your company can join the ranks of the innovators.
Take it From the Top
Innovation has to be a top-down thing. The C-Suite needs to get behind innovation to the extent that disruptive thinking is the norm. But it’s not just a matter of writing “innovation” into your list of company values. Innovation needs to become part of how you do business — an expected response, belief or sense of purpose.
Higher level execs need to walk the walk, showing that creative thinking is valued and that new ideas are worth listening to. Flattening your management structure and cutting your red tape can also strip away some of the barriers to innovation. If you can’t change up your hierarchy, give your staff the power to make proposals, offer suggestions and communicate with the powers that be.
The Real Risk is Doing Nothing
Championing innovation isn’t enough. If you really value it, you need to invest in it. This means providing the tools, frameworks and incentives required for innovation to thrive. Access to software or materials can facilitate product innovation. Hosting innovation workshops can teach employees exactly how to put an idea into action. And rethinking performance metrics can give new ideas a chance to flourish.
Payment structures such as bonuses and profit sharing can also encourage innovative risk-taking. Of course, the caveat around payment-based incentive structures is to design them so that they encourage actionable innovations in line with your company vision, not just a plethora of pie-in-the-sky ideas.
Make Friends in Innovative Places
What you know is important but so is who you know. Collaboration can be the difference between an idea and an innovation. Join forces with like-minded companies, organizations and groups and watch the new developments come running. When you partner with purpose, you share resources and expertise, giving your company a signal boost and scaling up what’s possible.
Verizon for example, launched collaborative initiatives with content providers and developers in order to create live TV and video-on-demand services to its customers. The increased capacity and reduced timeframes made possible by the partnerships allowed it to capitalize on the multi-billion-dollar streaming market.
For some organizations, opening an innovation center is the ticket to innovation. WalMart Labs for example, created a search engine that increased sales by 20%. For smaller companies, joining an innovation center can deliver the goods.
Failure is When You Stop Trying
Not every idea or solution will work the way it was intended. Some won’t work at all. But a truly innovative company doesn’t measure innovation in terms of immediate ROI. Because innovation isn’t a straight line. Take Dyson, which spends 46% of its budget on R&D and exhorts its engineers to fail fearlessly. There’s a reason that each of its products is a huge success and that reason is the thousands of prototypes that led to each release.
It takes effort to fail. But it also takes effort to fail well – by which we mean learning from your failures. You should encourage experimentation. But you should also encourage your staff to consider why something failed and then loop that into the next round of investigation.
Innovation is About Making Ideas Happen
Innovation is the functional, purposeful outcome of an idea. But getting to the innovation stage requires a company culture that supports strategic risk-taking and challenging ideas. Without those things your company risks following the curve – rather than leading it.
Don’t wait for someone else to take the lead. Identify your vision, purpose and focus, then start establishing a culture of innovation that supports it. You might be surprised where it takes you.
Are you ready to create an innovative work environment? Take your company ahead of the curve with StellaPop.