Innovation is the battle-cry among many companies across different industries. However, only a few are truly able to drive innovation at a rhythmic, sustainable and consistent pace. As the leader of your business, your job is to build the culture, the processes and the organization so that your company can out-innovate the competition, and reaches the stage where it out-innovates itself regularly.
Before we talk about driving innovation, we need to ask why. Why is innovation important? Why is it necessary? So many companies do perfectly fine by staying within the status quo. They do not push innovation and still manage to thrive, or at least survive, quite well.
However, a company that does not innovate is in decay. Over time, its employees will fall in a rut, doing the same thing in the same way over and over again, never stopping to ask whether there is a better way to get it done.
Whether we like it or not, the world around us is always changing. Innovation is about rejuvenation. No species on Earth would sustain itself if it stopped evolving. Business is no different. If you do not innovate and evolve, your best employees will be frustrated and will leave to work elsewhere.
Innovation is like physical exercise for the human body. It keeps you healthy and fit. How do you picture your company — a sedentary couch potato or an agile athlete?
Innovate across the board
Innovation spans the gamut. It’s obvious your products and services must innovate. However, so should your internal processes.
When is the last time you have asked your legal team or your customer service team how they are innovating? When was the last time HR drove innovation to improve employee engagement?
When did the sales team innovate to make their sales process more effective? Do your teams take the time to think about innovation, or are they so caught up in their day-to-day firefighting that innovation is the last thing on their minds?
Culture of innovation
Innovation won’t happen by itself. Granted, a few of your highly enterprising employees may push innovation on their own accord. However, that is not sufficient.
Develop a culture, a mind-set of innovation that runs across the organization. Innovation should not be an afterthought but a proactive pursuit. You must make it one of the top priorities for your employees. Instill a culture where executives and employees understand that innovation and routine tasks are equally important responsibilities of their jobs.
Provide employees the support they may need to innovate. They may require training to look for opportunities for innovation and help to implement process change. Provide experienced resources that can guide employees and help them develop and institute new ideas. Certain innovations may involve a significant allocation of human and/or financial capital.
Develop a review process that in a timely manner evaluates ideas and provides feedback to the organization on which ideas have been selected for implementation and why.
Pace of innovation
Set a healthy pace of innovation. Set the right expectations and measure progress. Celebrate innovation even if it is mundane and involves the back office.
In other words, celebrate and reward innovation at all levels and in all aspects of the organization. Your employees will feel a greater sense of purpose when they know they have successfully implemented a new idea and were acknowledged for implementing it. It will energize the culture of your company and drive employee engagement.
Your organization will not change itself unless you articulate the need, explain the process, follow through and measure the results. If you want innovation, you will have to drive it. Innovation is the energy that keeps the organization alive and the environment exciting.
Quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and WorldNews, Ravi Kathuria is a recognized thought leader. Featured on the BusinessMakers show, CBS Radio, and Nightly Business Report, he is the author of the highly acclaimed book, “How Cohesive is Your Company?: A Leadership Parable.” Kathuria is the president of Cohegic Corporation, a management consulting, executive and sales coaching firm, and president of the Houston Strategy Forum. Reach him at (281) 403-0250 or feedback@ cohegic.com