Today, many businesses suffer poor results because they do not have innovation strategies or will not seek out opportunities to become an innovative company. Great business leaders understand — and history has proven — that the execution of strategies, business models, disciplined processes, technologies and incentive systems that encourage innovation are important to sustained positive results.
Through my experience in leading multi-billion dollar companies and working with many of my clients over the past 30 years, I have experienced and witnessed several innovation strategies that have produced positive results. Here are 5 tips to guide you along the way to becoming an innovative company:
1. Create an environment of innovation – First and foremost, great business leaders mold the culture of their company to drive innovation. Innovation literally becomes more than a strategy but a “living, breathing” part, that’s weaved into the fabric of the organization. The end goal is creating an environment that would be the catalyst for great innovations over decades in the future. For example, 3M employees are allowed 15% free time to innovate as part of their culture. Instead of just creating the next great innovation, build, support, sponsor, and encourage an environment that stimulates innovation.
2. Discipline + creativity = managed innovation – Great companies that I have worked with understand that innovation doesn’t just mean entertaining far-fetched ideas to see if they will work. It’s applying discipline – that is, a framework of company processes and tools — to an employee’s creativity, which turns innovation into value. Success is often a long, pragmatic road of experiments and failures, which finally ends with a potentially great new solution. Even Thomas Edison used a disciplined problem-solving process in materials science which led to the success of the light bulb.
3. Stick to your company’s long-term vision – By associating your company’s mission with innovation, you will motivate employees to innovate. Also, when a company has a strong and inspiring vision about why it exists and about how the company enhances its customer’s world, the better focused it will be at innovating products around its mission and goals. The CEO of Amazon tells his team that “every day is Day One at the company”, for two reasons: first, it develops a long-term commitment to Amazon’s goals, including its goal of innovating new products and services, and secondly, it protects the team against hasty short-term decisions.
4. Collaborate & nurture talent – Studies have proven that collaborative teams produce more powerful ideas than if developed alone by individuals. All employees bring a unique perspective to the overall picture and by involving teams instead of sole individuals, you may uncover significant opportunities to improve or create new products or services. At the same time, recognize the individual employee’s contribution to the innovation process and promote their self-development. Encourage employees to seek new interests, to learn and develop new skills and talents. After all, the broader your employee’s perspective, the better able they are to innovate successfully.
5. Experiment & challenge the status quo – Promote experimentation and “no fear of failure” with employees. Great companies provide their staffs “creative time” to experiment on company projects not directly associated with their work. Empower your employees to take risks by looking at failure as part of the innovation process. You will be rewarded with employees truly “stretching their creativity.” Let them know that failure and trying again and again, comprises the innovation process.
Start off 2015 by asking yourself: Does your company want to create the next great innovation? Well then, make a resolution this year to implement some of the strategies discussed and begin working on creating an environment that stimulates innovation. Focus on building a unique company culture that cannot be copied and products or services that can’t as well.
Don’t hold back. Be Great!
Author Terry Trayvick is the CEO and Founder of Level Five LLC. Level Five is committed to bringing clients the best approaches to business management across all disciplines – from strategy to execution – for the expressed purpose of driving breakthrough results. The company’s mission is to partner with clients to supplement their industry experience and knowledge with world class management systems to help deliver the results deserved. Simply stated, the company brings world class management to world class ideas.