Are you and the company for which you work innovative?
How do you define innovation? The company I work for has an Innovation Center in North Carolina in which we can showcase all of our cool new technologies to new and prospective customers and our parent company in Ireland has an Innovation Group with whom I will meet when I’m there in a couple of weeks.
Innovation has been a goal of virtually every client or employer since I’ve been in business over the past 29 years. However, very few of those clients or employers walked the talk.
Innovation is inherently risky. My personal philosophy is to make mistakes early and often, learn from them, don’t duplicate them, move on.
In Zilch, by Nancy Lublin, she suggests:
– Create a small, crowded, boundaryless environment — everyone will know what everyone else is up to and build off it, brainstorming will come naturally.
– Cross-pollinate — have people from different departments, with different backgrounds, perspectives and skills sitting next to, and interacting with, each other.
– Make everyone do everything — every employee needs to understand how the entire organization works, this will result in a broader perspective and more ideas from people you had not originally thought of as being a viable member of your innovation team.
– Intensify the pressure — provide reasonable deadlines to achieve measurable goals.
– Let people know why they’re innovating — identify the objective for innovation that resonates with your employees. Two of my favorites are, “innovate or die” and “the middle of the road is a great place to get run over.” Create stories about how innovation will help the company and the employees achieve their goals.
– Stay close to your target market — my personal favorite because it goes back to always having a dialogue with, listening for insights from, your customers. What do they want that they’re not getting from you or your competitors? How can you make your product or service different and better in your customers’ eyes?
– Don’t sideline innovation — make innovation everyone’s job and part of the daily routine. Publicly reward innovation so that other members of the team knows what it looks like.
– Make job sharing and shadowing part of the culture — diversity of experience leads to greater innovation.
– Slash the team’s budget — get everyone thinking about how to do more with less. In Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsieh shared how productivity improved when they had to cut staff. The same thing will happen when you cut the budget.
– Outlaw the words “No” and “But” — find a way to test viable ideas. When I worked with P&G in the early-1980’s I was impressed by the company’s willingness to test virtually any idea. This made employees and vendors more willing to share their thinking. I worked for a number of clients where after sending a dozen strategic marketing recommendations and getting no answer or “no,” the team is less inspired to provide recommendations to help the business grow.
What have you done to increase innovation in your business or that of your clients?