10 Ways to encourage innovation in your organization

by Akbar Jaffer
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Wheel the greatest invention of all times

10 Ways to encourage innovation in your organization

Wheel the greatest invention of all times

Every organization continuously innovates in order to keep up with the market and hold onto its market share. However, in order to seriously differentiate itself, a company must innovate in a very significant way. Disruptive innovation must be a part of every organization.

Ideally there must be a separate department focused on “what’s next” for the company and is free from day to day responsibilities for maintaining the existing product lines. However, not every organization can afford to take a few people aside and let them loose in a play room somewhere coming up with ideas and trying out new things.

Whether you are lucky enough to have an innovation team or you have a virtual team of senior talent, there must be some framework for operation and some level of discipline and accountability. Here are 10 tried and tested ways to encourage innovation in your organization.

How To Encourage Innovation

  1. Hire the right people

    Right people on the bus, sitting in the right seats.
    Management gurus like Jack Welch and others chat the mantra, “hire the right people and they will figure out where to go and how to get there.” Venture capitalists invest in people not in technology. It’s a no brainer that true innovation comes from super passionate, highly intellectual geniuses and subject matter experts.

  2. Define a GRAND vision

    If people don’t laugh at you when you tell them your vision, your vision is not grand enough. Space Odyssey 2001 portrayed, in 1968, a computer without a mouse or a keyboard.

  3. Offer incentives and rewards

    Success comes in small building blocks. Define multiple levels of milestones deliverables and celebrate small wins. Incentives must be designed to not only reward success but further motivate and fuel the next wave of success.

  4. Don’t penalize failure

    Failure is the best thing that can happen to an innovation team. That just means they are trying. Celebrate them. Learn from your and others’ failures.

  5. Don’t Solicit ideas anonymously

    some companies conduct surveys among their employees, partners and customers. That’s not serious commitment to innovation. Rather, conduct formal idea gathering sessions, publicly recognize their contributions, and make them part of the innovation team.

  6. Don’t just listen to your existing customers and competitors

    Steve Jobs was a strong believer in not conducting market research for introducing a new product. Mark Cuban has a similar philosophy. If you only listen to your customers and competitors, you will come up with a product that’s already been invented, at least in their head.

  7. Challenge the status quo

    Just because something is working doesn’t mean it can’t be optimized or done differently. Reject any small incremental improvements outright but keep track of them and learn from them. Nest thermostat is a great example of that.

  8. Change the working environment

    Physical environment is just as important as the mental workspace. Give your innovation team a lab, give them tools and toys and give them lots of autonomy. The environment should be open and free for people to try things out and make mistakes. Google is known to have “creative rooms” with toys and puzzles.

  9. Inject cross-discipline perspective and thinking

    One astronaut is trained in multiple academic disciplines so they are better crewmembers and better problem solvers. Technology research that directly impacts human life must be informed by various disciplines. Only then true innovation takes place. Input must be considered from Psychology, Philosophy, art, music and other relevant areas. For example; what is the psychological impact or stress or blood pressure on a person who’s wearing an Apple Watch all day long with full notifications turned on.

  10. Have a strategic timeline in mind

    Even though innovation is not time bound and discovery can take as much or as little time it needs, there must be some strategic timeline that guides the team. There must be a tentative launch date. This creates some level of focus for innovation. For example; Apple could have charged its “wear-able” technology team in 2010 to come up with a viable consumer product to be launched by Spring of 2014.

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