Being an innovation leader doesn’t mean you have to create the next game-changing technology.
In my last blog, I talked about the importance of creating a culture of continuous innovation, and explained the value of information to that culture—how for innovation to be successful, you must break down barriers within your organization to open the flow of information, and how a robust mobile strategy is necessary to accomplish this goal.
But what exactly *is* innovation? Sure, it has certainly become a business buzzword that can’t be avoided. (59 percent of executives say it’s important to be innovative, according to IDC research commissioned by Ricoh). But how many companies are truly innovative? The same survey found that 70 percent of executives think that their companies are above-average innovators—yet just 14 percent are realizing significant business benefits from innovation.
How can we explain that discrepancy? It starts with rethinking our idea of innovation.
From Silicon Valley to sales & marketing
When we think of innovation these days, our minds turn to the truly innovative products (Smartphones, wearable devices, drones) or services (Uber, Amazon Prime) that are reshaping our world. Considering this, it’s little wonder that the world views Silicon Valley as an innovation hub. But this same line of thinking equates innovation solely with products and market disruption, like how the iPhone changed the telecommunications market.
Innovation is more than just market disruption or product development, however. It can be as simple as making small changes, taking steps that allow you to be agile and able to adapt to change, or rethinking a current service approach. This small-scale style of innovation should be touching every aspect of your business, from sales and marketing to HR and accounting. The reason? Creating a culture where small innovations are occurring across the enterprise can lead to extraordinary results. And other business leaders agree.
What’s more, this type of innovation should be bottom-up, rather than top-down. Rather than following top-down practices and dictating from afar the need for innovation, organizations should instead work to create a culture where innovation can take root—a bottom up approach that allows employees to take risks, look outside the organization for new ideas and practices, and most importantly, fail. Too often, an approach dictated from the top of the food chain doesn’t allow for failure, an attitude that can permeate an entire organization and paralyze innovation. The numbers bear this out as well: organizations that pursue a bottom-up strategy enjoy 24 percent higher revenue growth than those who engage in the traditional top-down style.
Leaders must understand that innovation is not something that can be ordered from above. Instead, it should be encouraged whenever and wherever in the organization it may arise.
Small changes can add up to a lot
Considering this idea of innovation, it probably doesn’t surprise you that 81 percent of innovation leaders make small, frequent changes when making improvements, rather than undergoing large, disruptive changes. This is compared to just 19 percent of those who lag behind. While a swing-for-the-fences approach may work for some major leaguers, it’s always not a recipe for business success.
And innovation leaders do enjoy business success. As mentioned in my previous blog, the benefits include 41 percent higher sales growth, a 16 percent boost to profit margins, and a 40 percent increase in productivity.
But while many companies and leaders are struggling in the pursuit of innovation, that doesn’t mean that things can’t change. Indeed, the IDC research found that innovation is something that can happen in any organization, recommending in addition to the strategies outlined above to invest wisely in a broad set of technologies and platforms allowing you the agility to optimize business processes and enhance productivity, rather than focusing on a single technology.
Interestingly, the survey also found that innovation leaders spent less on R&D than those who lag behind—but that these leaders spent a significantly greater share of that budget on “blue-sky” projects, or research into areas outside of the organization’s current products and services.
If you’re interested in the future of innovation leadership, I encourage you to sign up for our FREE webinar, taking place Monday, May 25, at 2 p.m. EST. You might be surprised at just how quickly you can get started at building a culture of continuous innovation within your organization.