November 2015 Newsletter – How to Foster Breakthrough Innovation in Your Organization

How to Foster Breakthrough Innovation in Your Organization

According to an insightful study by the executive development firm, Future Workplace, which examined how Millennials, Generation Xers and Baby Boomers function together in the work environment, it was found that the area they most desired training in was how to become more innovative. So in reality, the need for stoking the fire of innovation equally cuts across all generations.

Not only is innovation a top goal from the perspective of employees, but according to a PWC Global CEO Pulse Survey, 60% of CEO’s listed Innovation as their company’s #1 priority. While this study looked at large companies, from my experience this desire for innovation is a top objective for business owners and leaders of organizations of all sizes.

Innovation Does Not Just Happen, It Must be Lead

So everyone wants innovation. However, desiring innovation is like being for good government – everyone wants it, but how do you accomplish it?

Likewise, there are tons of innovation axioms like – “the best way to predict the future is to invent it” or “a business only has two functions – marketing and innovation”. But repeating a bunch of pithy sayings doesn’t create an innovative environment.

In reality, if innovation was easy – there would be a ton more Googles, Apples and Amazons.

Steve Jobs hit the nail on the head when he said “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

Innovation Leadership

In having worked with over 1,200 companies during the past 17 years, we hSmall Business Planning in Atlanta, Georgiaave found a key foundation to the entire innovation process is Leadership. But this is not just the standard leadership that it takes to guide an organization. There are three main ingredients to effectively leading and facilitating innovation.

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership is a first main ingredient of getting your entire company to fully embrace innovation. This kind of leadership is what Ronald Reagan and Franklin Roosevelt displayed when they communicated their far-sighted agendas that, in turn changed America.

With regards to innovation – transformational leadership conveys, in broad strokes, “this is the hill we are going to take”.

A leader’s primary role is to articulate, sanction, support and promote innovation. That is, to say in words and actions “this is important”. Saying that innovation is important needs to be a theme that is regularly espoused, not just a “one and done” – and this includes sharing success stories.

This is necessary because history has shown that for innovation to be successful, there must be an identifiable leader of it. Innovation initiatives without an identifiable leader do not succeed.

There must be a “face” promoting innovation. Issuing Purpose Statements, marketing collateral and corporate emails just does not work. There must be a cheerleader or champion of innovation at the highest level of an organization for the message to be taken seriously by your personnel.

A good example is 3-M. For decades their leadership has conveyed, in various ways, that innovation is important, crucial, and valued. This commitment is regularly seen with the introduction of new products that have been developed as a result of in-house innovation.

So where do you begin? A good first step is a have an in-person or virtual meeting with all of your staff and share that the world and your environment is changing and changing fast and your organization needs to embrace innovation to thrive in the future.

Empower and Release Your Personnel

Small Business Planning in AtlantaSuccessful innovation requires the commitment of time, money, and effort on behalf of an enterprise. Employees must be empowered both psychologically and with workplace tools necessary to create innovations.

This empowerment includes releasing your personnel to try new and different things – knowing full well that many may come to nothing. Part of this involves creating a safe environment where people know they will not be punished for innovation “failures” or maligned because their efforts came to naught.

Highly innovative organizations are willing to follow-up and follow through on behalf of new ideas. This involves providing sufficient resources to develop new ideas. This encompasses not just birthing the idea but seeing it through to its logical conclusion to determine if it is viable., which is Forbes Magazine #1 rated innovative company, does this by first creating a broad vision for innovation and then empowers and releases their personnel to “figure it out”. They even have a process for empowering and releasing their staff, which is called V2MOM. V2MOM stands for “vision, values, methods, obstacles and measures” that is a mix of philosophies and products.

To put this into practice, examine your workplace environment and determine if you have created a “safe” environment where you are empowering and releasing your personnel to create innovations. If you have not, then take steps to provide the needed changes.

Provide Guidance and Direction

While you don’t want to try to micro manage innovation, you do need to provide guidance and direction toSmall Business Planning in Atlanta, Georgia your personnel involved with innovation initiatives at the appropriate times. There are two aspects to this support.

Evaluation of submitted ideas is a key role that leadership should play. In smaller organizations, top management should perform the appraisal themselves. Whereas, in larger companies an entire structure that is capped by one or more executives should be put in place to evaluate and guide the development of ideas and innovations.

The most important aspect of this guidance is that feedback is directly given to the person or team suggesting or developing the innovation. A huge problem in organizations of all sizes is that innovations go into a “black hole”, never to be heard from again. To ensure that ideas and innovations are recorded, their progress is monitored and the necessary resources are supplied to develop the innovation, Innovation Management Software such as Brite Idea Lab can be used to simplify and systematize the innovation process.

The second aspect is for you to act like a scout out in the old west and review and analyze your business landscape regularly. This involves looking at new trends, technologies, government regulations, competition, products, consumer shifts… This critical intelligence is then used to shape and direct your innovation efforts.

A great example of providing guidance and direction to its personnel is Intuit, the creator of Quicken® and QuickBooks®, which has developed an entire system to assist its staff to develop ideas and jump start innovation projects.

Tie Compensation to Innovation

Small Business Planning in Atlanta, GeorgiaAn indicator that this entire area of Innovation Leadership is now getting the attention it deserves is that some organizations are now tying executive and management compensation directly to innovation successes. This ensures that leadership has a vested stake in making sure innovation flourishes within their company.

In summary, to catapult your organization from where it is, to where you want it to go, applying innovation to your entity is key. As we have seen, innovation does not just happen by itself, it must be lead and guided from the top of a company.

So, how can you start down this path? Start by deciding to fully embrace innovation and then determine how to be the face of innovation within your business. Next put the processes in place to empower and release your personnel and provide the guidance and direction they need to develop breakthrough innovations.

If you need assistance with making innovation happen within your organization, please contact us so we can show you how to use this concept to take your business where you want it to go.

Fountainhead Consulting Group, Inc. is an Innovation and Business Planning firm. During the past 17 years we have shown over 1,200 companies how to achieve the goals for their business by using our unique, comprehensive and systematic business planning and growth methodology, the Structure of Success™ so they can Work Less, Make More and most importantly Have Fun in Their Business. Using our Structure of Success™ methodology each month we examine one of 12 areas of a business or organization.

Office phone: (770) 642-4220

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