If You’re Not Innovating, You’re Deteriorating

June 5, 2014 — 3 Comments

Unfortunately, a good deal of the time corporate strategies are a response to constraints from the past rather than innovations for today… and the future. It is likely you, and  most leaders across your organization, are so busy operationalizing today’s strategy that you miss the obvious, much less seek out innovation. It isn’t usually the unthinkable that undoes companies (and individuals) – it’s the possible that you didn’t notice. Consider for a moment where you get most of the information you use to make decisions. If you aren’t tapping into different, unique sources of data and insight, you are increasingly likely to overlook important opportunities —until it’s too late.  Regular time-outs from day-to-day concerns to ponder potential innovations are crucial. Relax the constraints of the day-to-day, and all kinds of new possibilities become well…possible.

In this increasingly competitive global economy, everyone in your organization must be responsible for innovation. Do not overlook the greatest asset in your company – your employees. Each of them, across boundaries & borders, have unique experiences, education, and background. They have different perspectives, different problem solving skills and techniques. There may not be a single one of them who is as smart as you, who knows the business as well as you do, or who is as good at innovating as you. But, as smart as you are as their leader, you are not smarter than the collective whole (sorry!).

You must create the space for people to continually reinvent the business…and themselves for that matter. Innovation drives the generation of ideas, and to be successful, you need to constantly replenish these ideas.  It is critical for you to enable and encourage the imagination of everyone in your organization. You need to create a culture of collaboration in order to unleash the power of innovation.

As you integrate innovation as a core part of your culture, you will have the capacity to move quickly. You will create the possibility of doing things you have never done before. You will be able to use innovation to grow your business… to expand… to explore new horizons… new directions. Innovation can be a catalyst for the growth and success of your business, and help you adapt and grow in the marketplace.

Successful innovation should be an in-built part of your business strategy and the strategic vision. Research findings highlight the complementary role of organizational culture in enabling organizations to translate innovative activity into tangible performance improvements. You can also improve profitability and performance by providing diverse work group opportunities and resources to innovate, in addition to core job tasks.

If innovation has so many clear benefits, why do so many companies spend all their time making tiny, incremental process improvements – while their competitors steal their customers with innovative new products and services? Clearly the problem is not that business leaders don’t see the value of innovation. Many just don’t know how to encourage innovation.  You can leverage Innovation to create success in your organization by doing some relatively simple (but not necessarily easy) things. Here are a few ideas to help you promote innovation in your organization:

First and Foremost:      Make Innovation Everyone’s Responsibility

Open the door for new idea proposals from everyone. This is not a passive activity… it is not a suggestion box on the wall somewhere or a suggestion committee reading written ideas in some dark room. Actively making everyone responsible for innovation through the explicit integration of innovation as a core component of your vision, mission and strategy is a cultural shift that must start with you, as a leader.

2.     Encourage Communication

Provide opportunities for people to get together and talk – in person and virtually (for geographically dispersed teams). Cross-functional, cross-cultural  conversations spur the imagination of each person and provides context for them to learn from, and feed off of, the ideas of the others.

3.      Support Failure 

Sarah is now on the fifth attempt to solve the logistics challenge because her first four attempts failed. How will you handle her failures? Think carefully… and consider how many times Edison failed before he found the right filament for the electric light bulb?  Failure is often the well tread road to success…

4.       Identify Patterns  

Joe’s solution to the IT problem may be what Sarah needs to solve the logistics challenge. Looking for similarities in unlikely places that are applicable to other challenges leads to innovative solutions.

5.        Know Your Market

Identify key challenges in the marketplace and provide the time and space for your teams to identify innovative solutions to those problems – chances are, these innovations will be relevant to other clients and/or partners and may have the potential to drive incremental revenue. Encourage people to look outside of themselves to other functions or industries to identify solutions that can be adapted for use in your space. Use a SWOT analysis to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats relative to your clients, competitors, company, and industry to uncover information that will drive innovation.

The Bottom Line: If You Are Not Innovating, You Are Deteriorating! Use All Of Your Resources To Facilitate Success…

Your company (department, group, or team) encompasses a lot of very smart people. Encourage them to be imaginative, give them permission to make mistakes, and give them time to explore… or just sit and think. Build a culture that recognizes and embraces everyone’s strengths and works across organizational lines to foster innovation. Put individuals into team environments where they get to know each other and enjoy working together across boundaries and borders. Do these things and you will foster the innovation you need to succeed.

Challenge: Take the opportunity that is right in front of you…  enjoy the thrill of stepping out of your comfort zone, while promoting a way for your company to ensure the realization of innovative growth and development – Facilitate innovation in your organization.

How will you ensure innovation is a top priority across your organization?

Please engage the discussion and let us know how networking can help you to exceed your potential. Feel free to contact me at Sheri.Mackey@LuminosityGlobal.com, by visiting my blog at Leadership Across Boundaries & Borders, stopping by our website at Luminosity Global Consulting Group or checking out my new leadership portal at The Global LABB.Please engage the discussion and let us know how networking can help you to exceed your potential. Feel free to contact me at Sheri.Mackey@LuminosityGlobal.com, by visiting my blog at Leadership Across Boundaries & Borders, stopping by our website at Luminosity Global Consulting Group or checking out my new leadership portal at The Global LABB.


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Sheri is The Global Coach, founder of Luminosity Global Consulting Group, Global Executive Coach, Speaker, Writer and Global Business and Cultural Expert.

3 responses to If You’re Not Innovating, You’re Deteriorating

  1. Excellent article and very provocative title: “If You’re Not Innovating, You’re Deteriorating”. Gallup, Towers-Perrin, you pick the research, 7 out of 10 employees have disconnected and disengaged from their company’s mission. That is more than just a careers crisis. It is a leadership crisis when 70% of your team is not flying out of bed and innovating and/or creating a great client experience.

    Leadership is about taking people on a journey of significance. This journey starts with taking a T.R.I.P. You need Risk-taking which creates Innovation that results in Progress. The foundation is high trust or what say high relationship capital trust. Thus T.R.I.P., but trust is very low in most corporations.

    Research from Boston Consulting Group, USC Center for Organizational Effectiveness, and LRN (Dov Seidman) have shown that 97% of firms are driven by either “coercion” or “carrots & sticks” motivators. There seems to be a disconnect in what the CEO thinks the level of culture in the firm and all the rest of the employees.

    It must be very difficult for these 97% to “innovate”. Only 3% of organizations have elevated do-the-right-thing cultures of self-governance and high relationship capital trust. These are the businesses where the star performers work and will stay not because of extrinsic motivators but because of their intrinsic higher purpose and values which drive innovation. I see a lot of deterioration going on in the USA do to low levels of organizational culture driven “short-termism” and low-trust. The good news for American-based companies, it is worse in other nations so I am not sure if they are losing ground to foreign competition.

    Would welcome your perspective on my comments. Thank you again!

  2. Notify me of where I can send you a private comment.

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