Innovation is a top priority for most CEOs, yet creating a workplace that is conducive to innovation – cycles of trials and failures followed by eventual success – is quite challenging. Here are five ways to foster innovation in your organization.
1. Make Brainstorming Routine. Conducting brainstorming sessions on a regular basis gives employees a brief respite from their daily routines. Done well, brainstorming energizes employees and permits them to engage more deeply in the business. There are many tools and techniques that can make brainstorming fun, fruitful, and free. http://www.forensicsciencetechnician.org/100-online-brainstorming-tools-to-help-you-think-outside-the-box/
2. Steal Shamelessly. Adapting ideas from other companies is one of the best ways to innovate in your own. Remember where Steve Jobs got the idea for GUIs and a mouse? It’s now common business lore that Southwest Airlines studied NASCAR pit crews to improve aircraft turnaround times. Stock car racing and discount airlines have little in common. But pit crews are all about speed, and are arguably as much a factor in winning as the driver’s skills. Southwest too, was focused on speed, and was not afraid to do the unconventional.
3. Expand Your Horizons. Comparing yourselves to your competitors is of limited value because you’ll probably be imitating what’s already being done in your industry. Looking outside your industry, however, might give you a strategy that enables you to break away from the pack. Virginia Mason Medical Center wanted to improve the quality of care so rather than studying other hospitals, it adopted Toyota’s world renowned TPS.
4. Benchmark Processes not Companies. If you want to improve your product development process, you might want to study Inditex’s product development process. Inditex is a fashion industry powerhouse (Zara, Massimo Dutti, and six other brands and formats globally) that consistently brings new products to market in a matter of weeks. Speed to market is one of Inditex’s core advantages enabling it to react quickly to fast selling fashions as well as to replace slow-moving items.
5. Accept Failure & Move On. Easier said than done? Yet consider how often companies have persisted down a well-worn path even though the strategy no longer produces results? This too is failure but somehow it feels more acceptable. Kodak continued in the film business believing digital cameras were for hobbyists and purists would never adopt the technology. IBM, by contrast, has gradually exited the hardware business – its former mainstay – in favor of technology and business services.