How do YOU innovate?
Updated: Jul 8, 2018
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Thomas Edison
I recently attended the Brand Innovation Quest in Chicago along with 30 speakers and approximately one hundred participants. I was up to the challenge to find out how companies and leaders innovate and share it with you.
I asked the guests how they set priorities, what do they invest in and what are the best innovation initiatives in their companies. I tried to mentally visualize where they fit into the hierarchy pyramid.
Have you heard of the innovation hierarchy of needs? Collective Campus designed this pyramid that starts with the superficial appearance of innovation at the bottom and builds up to the real deal: disruptive innovation capabilities.
What level are you at? Do your employees think they are encouraged and recognized for their innovation efforts? How does your leadership react to risky big ideas? Have you already achieved some small wins? What do you need to do to get to the next level?
Before we dive into the key ingredients of success, let’s address the top three misperceptions I caught during the day:
Innovate to grow your business. Many executives create unnecessary pressure when they frame the role of innovation as something that will decide whether their organizations will exist in the future (make or break). Being forceful is guaranteed to kill creativity and ruin employee engagement. Instead, try to frame it as ‘innovate to solve your customer’s and your own problems' and it will take you much further.
Amazon and Apple have it all figured out. Sounds familiar? Rather, sounds like a broken record. This conference was no exception. We heard it all. Can we now talk about Airware, Boston Dynamics, Dollar Shave Club, Rent the Runway and many others that deserve to be part of the conversation?
It’s only worth innovating if it is game changing. Don’t fall into the trap of overlooking smaller innovations - they can set you up for the next stage as well as generate comfortable financial returns (they add up quickly). Start harvesting the low hanging fruits and celebrate all your wins!
What drives innovation success:
Collaborate internally. The easiest and most budget-friendly way to build something great starts with breaking down the silos within your organization and have cross-functional teams talk to each other directly. Who says 'no' to quick wins?
Foster open innovation. Co-innovation and open source codes are on the rise. Attorneys see a spike in requests for joint agreements regulating IP sharing and co-investments. Innovation labs flourish as large companies engage external partners to shake up traditional business models and develop new products (PepsiCo & The Hatchery Chicago on food entrepreneurship, Walmart & IMB on blockchain technology to advance food safety or Walmart and fintech startups Even and PayActiv on financing services are some of the recent examples I came across).
Implement employee incentive programs. Unilever launched a micro-funding platform called “Digifund” where employees can request up to 10,000 euro for implementing supply chain innovation ideas. Adobe has created the Adobe Kickbox for all employees. It’s a box with a Starbucks gift card, a chocolate bar, a notebook and a prepaid credit card with $1000 to be spent on testing and experimenting with ideas (no expense report and ROI justification required).
Take clues from your existing and potential customers. LEGO encourages everyone to build custom sets on their website using 3D models and the most popular design will make it to the stores. Starbucks collects ideas related to product, experience and technology on ideas.starbucks and has received over 150,000 entries and 2 million votes in the first 2 years.
By now, it is clear that chasing big ideas is in the center of attention for all innovation pursuits. The value of reinventing and implementing existing ideas in a better way is often overlooked. You don’t need new ideas to innovate. In fact, don’t be disappointed when you realize that somebody is already working on your idea.
Have you ever had a brilliant idea coming from a ‘what-if’ or ‘I hate it when..., why can’t they just‘ moment? What happens next? You google it and find out that several companies working on 'your' solution have already received millions of dollars of funding or have conquered a portion of the market. Does it mean you should give up? Absolutely not. There is always opportunity to tweak existing ideas, apply them in different industry or environment or do it better, smarter, simpler. Few innovators are actually inventors. Learn from others’ successes and failures, partner, mentor and, most importantly, take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.
So how do YOU innovate?