Sunday, January 17, 2010

Innovation... That's not a bad idea!

Only 47% of senior executives see their companies as more innovative than the competition, and 17% concede that they're even less innovative than peers, according to an Ernst & Young survey of C-suite executives at firms with revenues of $50 million to $5 billion. Among the most frequently cited innovation challenges are lack of appropriate personnel (48%) and "lack of a big idea" (41%).

Source: Ernst & Young

We all want to build an innovative business, but we don't think we have what it takes within our organizations to do. Add to that at the same time we don't follow through with what we need to do to actually innovate. If you feel this way, the following are all the ways you can promote instead of stifle innovation in 2010.

1) Help others innovate- Too often we find ourselves as business leaders telling those in our organizations to come up with innovation and as soon as they do we ready our rifles and shoot them down.

2) View innovation as a core business product- You would never stop making your product better, why would you stop making your company better?

3) Innovation isn't just a way to improve sales- Innovation can come from anywhere, a new quality control procedure, a new more efficient way to file important information, a better system of procurement; if these things make your company better, they are all forms of positive innovations!

4) Support innovation- After you have broken the habit of shooting down innovative ideas (see #1), they still have to grow. Think of innovation like a seed. You can simply plant it and hope it grows, or you can water it, give it nutrients, make sure light shines on it and make sure it grows.

5) Don't handcuff innovation- Really #4 and #5 could be combined, however sometimes we support innovation, giving it time and space to grow, but then handcuff the growth by giving it unrealistic time lines or require it to meet impossible metrics. This isn't to say you should fund all innovation to the hilt, but be realistic with your expectation for innovative ideas.

6) Reward innovation- Innovation makes the company better. If someone attempts to innovate and it doesn't earn or save $1, don't punish the innovator as a failure. Creating a culture which rewards innovation will make it easier for employee's to bring better ideas to the table.

7) If at first you don't succeed, keep trying- No innovation is perfect right out of the box. More than this, not every attempt to innovate will be successful. However simple law of averages says the more innovations you support, the more likely one or more will be a success.

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