By Eamonn Percy
You want your company to thrive because it innovates, not innovate to survive. Major changes in the global economy, technology, and demographics, are significantly disrupting many industry sectors, putting a squeeze on profit margins of companies in status quo mode while rewarding the innovators with new opportunity and stronger market positions.
By building a culture of innovation into the DNA of both your leadership and company, you become more competitively positioned and create greater long-term shareholder value. Business leadership must be persistent, aggressive and focused in transforming the company, so innovation becomes the way you are, not something you do.
The 6 keys to building a culture of innovation are:
Make innovation a strategic priority. Ensure you develop and implement a strategic plan to grow your organization, and make innovation a key priority within that plan. Review and update the strategic plan regularly (no less than annually), ensure the organization is aligned with the achievement of the plan, and consistently measure your progress against its goals.
Communicate why innovation is a priority. Communicate to all levels of your organization, so employees are aware of your plans, understand their roles, are committed to taking action and can define success. Provide regular and meaningful updates on progress. Be clear and transparent. Create a common language in order to achieve greater organizational cohesion.
Implement a system that enables innovation. For a business initiative to become successful, it will need a system to nurture, support and measure it. For instance, you could select a system like Lean, which started in manufacturing and now is being adopted in Health Care and Technology, as the backbone of driving transformative thinking. Or give people time to innovate (i.e. Google gives its employees 20% of their time to innovate)
Lead by example. Take the time to focus on becoming a better business leader, so you can model the behaviors you expect of others, particularly during difficult or critical periods. Nothing will make the cultural change more successful than this one act. Be persistent, be authentic and be open minded to opportunity.
Hire, train and build innovative talent. Make the recruitment and retention of key staff that support your innovation strategy a key priority. Help your current staff to develop new skills and find the right way to contribute in a more innovative environment, while hiring new staff that can fill the gaps and have the skills and abilities to drive innovation. Be consistently focused on market problems and customer needs.
Fail faster: Encourage more risk-taking and make failing for taking measured risks both acceptable and an opportunity. Find ways to decrease the failure cycle time, which will drive new opportunities from the failures, and move the company ahead faster.
Don’t innovate for the sake of it. Rather use innovation as a core strategy to build a dominate market position, enabling your company to adapt and transform, creating long-term shareholder value well into the future.
Eamonn has a B. Eng. (Electrical) from Lakehead University, MBA (Finance) from University of Toronto, and has completed Executive Education at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He lives in Vancouver, Canada. Follow him on twitter @EamonnPercy