A senior team committed to a company's innovation possesses undeniable value. Upper management sets a strategy and provides access to resources for other employees.
It helps determine when and where to invest. If the team doesn't develop an innovation-capable organization, chances of yielding a significant advancement within the enterprise are slim.
Innovation requires more than an idea from one department in the company. Innovation should barrel forth from all areas of the company, but should be steered by management.
Five to Drive
Managers can encourage innovation from all areas of the company by trying the following:
- Create a culture in support of innovation. Stress collaboration between organizational members, creativity across business platforms, and competition among ideas.
- Demonstrate desire for leadership at all levels. Support the differing opinions and perspectives of leaders.
- Focus on execution in all areas. Good ideas aren't enough. Senior teams must respond to the business's changing needs. Stay goal-driven, flexible, and responsive.
- Highlight key assessment areas. Define consistent sets of measures and constantly review them. Keep these evaluations open, honest, and meaningful to the company's strategic and operational concerns.
- Stay centered by renewing your innovation intent regularly. Use your leadership role to state your mission in a persistent, systematic manner. Verbally tie that intent to your organization's growth and long-term success.
Knowing What Works
As a leader, it's imperative to know how the organization drives an idea to fruition. Then, support and push your employees to that point.
Anyone presenting an idea should identify how that idea will fix a problem or address a challenge. The idea-bearing employee should articulate the insight that drives the idea. Such insights are primarily drawn from first-person observation.
Leaders conduct experiments that promote learning and the advancement of more ideas. Without experimentation, ideas can't be pitted against the daily demands of the business. Experimentation ensures your company doesn't lose sight of innovation.
For the Prospective Innovator
For aspiring innovators who aren't yet part of the C-suite, you can get your ideas noticed, too.
Practicing an innovation method called "design thinking" can give you a repeatable and consistent approach to identify potential innovations. The key steps of design thinking are:
- Define the challenge.
- Observe people with the problem. Who are you innovating for? Are they existing or potential customers?
- Form insights. What unique judgments can you make?
- Frame opportunities. Will your insights for a new product, service, process, or system yield significant return for your business?
- Brainstorm ideas. Focus on one opportunity at a time.
- Experiment. By focusing on your best idea/combination of ideas, you can create experiments to improve ideas and make solutions stronger for your customer.
This process is constructed to give you the information you need to have confidence when presenting your idea.
For an enterprise to be innovation-capable, the leaders must create a culture of support. Ideas must have a constant flow, and everyone must work through them while keeping goals in sight. This will introduce innovation into your company's offerings and into the company itself.
Bio: Andrew (Drew) C. Marshall is the Principal of Primed Associates, LLC, an innovation consultancy. Prior to founding Primed Associates, LLC, Drew spent ten years with Princeton-based management consulting firm Kepner-Tregoe, where he rose to become a Partner and the Chief Innovation Officer. He is a co-host of the weekly innovation-focused Twitter chat, #innochat, the founder, host, and producer of Ignite Princeton, and a contributor to the Innovation Excellence and Collaborative Innovation blogs.