The practice and discipline of innovation is critical to the sustained success of any organization. In 2013, PwC’s report Unleashing the power of innovation surveyed executives from around the world and 64% said that innovation and operational effectiveness were equally important to the success of any company. Yet, there are many companies that don’t initiate this practice, or even worse, discourage it from developing at all. Part of the reason for this is due to some myths on how innovation works in an organization. Here are a few of the common myths.
Innovation is only for large companies
While it is true that innovation is critical to help sustain large companies (see how the Fortune 500 has changed over the last 10 years), innovation is just as critical for the survival of smaller companies, if not more so. Small and medium sized companies are even more exposed and at risk to changes in competition, external environments, and technological disruptions. Being aware and constantly ready to change is paramount to sustained success.
Innovation requires a team of like-minded people
It’s true that your approach to innovation should have a group of people that are passionate about innovation, however, your group needs to have a nice mix of thinkers. This allows you to get different, valuable perspectives on solutions. It is especially helpful for organizations that have not been innovative to pull in outside resources to get started correctly. This provides added measures for success and brings in a fresh, unbiased perspective to provide alternative views and help move things forward.
Innovation is only good for brand new products and services
Umm, no. It is absolutely true that innovation can create a brand-new product offering, but it is not the only outcome of innovation. Many times, through the process of innovation, new processes will be created or, even better, improved processes are created. You don’t have to be a disruptor to claim innovative success. If you can get dramatic improvements in your existing processes, whether it is creating better margins or improving value to your customer, that is a great result.
Innovation takes too long
If you are hoping for a “one and done” approach to innovation, then yes, it may take too long. And yes, your innovation efforts will most-likely fail. If you take the approach that innovation is an ongoing part of your organization and it will never truly end, then the timeframe should not be an issue. The by-products of an innovation approach, if done correctly, will continue to improve the strength of your organization and add real value. It is important to understand that innovation will have its challenges. There will be times where a proposed innovative idea will not work out as expected. It is important at these times to fail fast, glean any data from the process that you can, and move to the next project. Oftentimes these “failures” provide valuable insight that provide real value.
Innovation is not a company-wide initiative
Look at companies that have started innovation initiatives that sputtered, stalled and failed. One of their common traits will be that their organization did not fully accept the innovation initiative. They also probably did not have a senior leader champion their efforts. If there is not complete buy-in from an organization with support from senior leadership, the chances of success are zero. Innovation does not happen in a vacuum.
Innovation interferes with our strategy
If your organization’s culture believes this, then it will be a problem. Innovation should be compliment of your strategy, not compete with your strategy. There is a need for organizational discipline when it comes to innovation. You can’t change directions on a whim and have the entire organization chase every new idea that comes up. There needs to be an innovation process that allows the organization to move forward and take advantage of innovation, not be distracted or mired down by innovation. This is another area where outside assistance can provide the guidance needed to create a successful innovation program.
In the same 2013 PwC survey, 57% of the executives said having the right culture to foster and support innovation is the most important ingredient for successful innovation at a company. Don’t let the common myths of innovation prevent you from taking the important first step. Innovation should be a permanent fixture in your organization to assist in your sustained success. The traits of the team that you assign this important function are critical to its success, along with the full backing of the organization. If you would like to further discuss the make-up of this team and how to start innovation in your organization, contact Incite Business.