Innovation can transform your business, but it won’t just happen randomly. These 3 steps can help you strategically encourage innovation in your company.
After being ousted from Apple and spending 12 years on other ventures, Steve Jobs returned to a company in shambles. The business was close to bankruptcy, but Jobs had a plan. “The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting,” he said. “The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament.” Decades later, the tech giant is one of the most valuable companies in the world.
Of course, you don’t have to wait until your company is in dire straits before investing in innovation. The key to long-term success is consistency. For example, Amazon has built on past success by steadily expanding its products and services: Prime memberships with free two-day shipping, one-click purchases, smart speakers, etc.
Steady improvements allow you to remain competitive in the marketplace, so try to focus on one step at a time. Over time, your incremental progress can produce a major innovation that dominates the marketplace and sets you apart from competitors. Here are three strategies that can help you and your company innovate your way to the top:
- Host professional development events.
If you want more innovation, you can’t just request it in a companywide email. You need to make it a business priority and invest in initiatives that help employees do their best work. Professional development events can help provide that outlet: A study out of Middlesex University in London found that 74% of workers said a lack of development opportunities was hampering their performance.
Alex Tapper, head of client strategy and services at Frogslayer, believes companies should host events to help team members grow by sharing their skills and knowledge. “That might mean having senior employees go over best practices for a given domain, encouraging new recruits to research areas that interest them, or offering talented individuals the chance to demonstrate new skills that could help others,” Tapper says. “These dialogues can occur on digital forums, in video meetings, or even at in-person ‘lunch and learns.’”
You can also host innovation events where teams try to brainstorm new solutions to old problems. Encourage participation, but don’t make attendance mandatory. Optional events naturally weed out those who don’t want to attend, leaving you with folks who are ready to contribute.
- Hire people with diverse perspectives.
If everyone in your company thinks the same way, you won’t be able to navigate the marketplace effectively. Although research has linked diversity to improved innovation and higher profits, the boardrooms of Fortune 500 companies are still overwhelmingly white and male.
Thankfully, a few well-known organizations are looking to break the mold. Google and Apple, for example, no longer require traditional degrees and have dropped requirements for other “official” qualifications. By encouraging candidates with different experiences to apply, you’ll get different perspectives. It’s as simple as that.
Debbie Ferguson and Fredrick Lee, two employees at Gusto, believe that the skills you look for when hiring affect your company’s ability to innovate. “When crafting job descriptions, we focus on what the candidate can expect to do day-to-day and what we’re looking for at a high level, such as an ‘interest in complex product development problems,’” they say. “If we mention specific programming languages, we’ll clarify that you don’t need to know them because there will be training on the job.”
- Strive for work-life integration.
Jen Fisher, chief well-being officer at Deloitte, knows that stepping back from work is one of the hardest decisions a leader can make. However, it can result in improved innovation.
“Our constant focus solely on our work ethic helps fuel our culture’s obsession with the ‘badge of busy,’ in which our harried, overscheduled lives of perpetual busyness are proudly worn as a badge of honor,” says Fisher. “We think that the way to communicate that we take our jobs seriously is to never stop doing them. But having a strong work ethic — without a correspondingly strong rest ethic that we take every bit as seriously — is what’s burning us out.”
With the transition to hybrid work, Fisher’s message is even more important. A survey from Robert Half indicates that 45% of remote professionals were working longer hours during the pandemic. Innovation can’t happen in a creative vacuum where every moment is devoted to meetings, emails, and work notifications. Don’t check your email outside of regular hours, decline meetings after 5 p.m., and encourage the rest of your team to do the same.
The success of companies like Apple and Amazon isn’t determined by technology — it’s driven by ideas. These organizations rose to the top because their founders and leaders saw untapped potential. Not all innovations will completely transform the market, but even small advancements can push your company to be better tomorrow than it is today.
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The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the CEOWORLD magazine.
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