We associate innovation with spontaneity, a new idea that strikes suddenly. And while that certainly can be the case, innovation doesn’t have to be limited by chance. Innovation, like any other business initiative, can be driven by your processes.
“Every company that’s been an outstanding innovator has had their own culture, system or approach to innovation,” says Kumar Mehta, Principal and Founder of Bridges Insight. Historically innovation has increased after major events, and the disruption caused by COVID-19 provides opportunities to embrace change. “But we have to learn how to innovate differently,” Mehta continues.
As more companies move to remote work, employees may be physically distant. But for large organizations, virtual communities have grown. Here’s how large enterprises can tap into their employee network to facilitate company-wide innovation.
Innovation has to be more than just a buzzword. Many companies tout it as a core value, but few define what innovation actually means within the context of your company culture. Organizations must make innovation tangible across the organization, says data scientist, strategist and author, Vin Vashishta.
But don’t try to be Amazon or Google, he cautions. “You have to create something that makes sense for your business model,” Vashishta says. For innovation to be functional at your organization, it has to work within your actual organizational culture.
For most large enterprise organizations, innovation is a driver for revenue and cost-savings. Push innovation where your company is most vulnerable in the market, or where you can introduce new products or processes to break into new markets. Identify key points where you need innovation to occur. “And then let it happen,” Vashishta says.
The most successful companies have innovators in place at every point across the organization. Build it into your recruiting process. You must be willing to pay a premium for talent that has innovative potential, Vashishta notes. If you put the right talent in place, they will drive an innovative culture.
Innovation happens in clusters, not silos. Breaking up the silos that form in large organizations is essential to innovating successfully. “Innovation should spread out across the entire company,” Mehta points out. “In the most innovative companies, innovation is everybody’s job.” Every aspect of the iPhone was innovative — right down to its packaging, which is patented. Truly innovative organizations encourage innovation from every sector so that innovation trickles down to the overall consumer experience.
Put all the great minds at your disposal to work. If every employee is encouraged to innovate, your organization’s chances of success increase exponentially.
Many companies have an “idea inbox” where employees can submit suggestions for innovation and improvement, but those inboxes are rarely utilized. Successful innovation is much more targeted. There has to be an infrastructure in place for employees to bring ideas forward.
“The most innovative companies have a system in place that everyone understands,” Mehta points out. Create roadmaps for innovation and establish goals to work toward. Point employees to specific points where innovation is needed, whether it is outdated work processes or customer-facing product issues. Build a pipeline of innovative ideas from employees across the organization.
“There has to be a desire to provide real value to consumers, not just make money,” Mehta says. “Innovation happens when you really change customer experience in a meaningful way.” Employees at large enterprise organizations may be physically distant, but they are connected by shared goals and systems that can help them share new ideas and innovate new products and services.
We are living in unprecedented times, and innovation is needed today more than ever. As AI and automation revolutionize work, it’s our ideas that will continue to set us apart. Empower your workforce to innovate, and watch them take your organization to the next level.
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