When the CEO is also an Innovator
When the CEO is not an Innovator
The Main Attributes of an Innovative Company
Leadership and Culture
There needs to be a company culture that encourages risk-taking, doesn’t punish failure (rather uses it as a learning experience), encourages and facilitates the sharing of ideas and information. People need to be able to experiment with new ideas without the fear of failure.
Innovation is often a product of genuine curiosity, of questioning status quo and hypotheses. New ideas can come from networking with and learning from people outside our industry, our country, and our profession. These habits and behaviors need to be part of the company’s culture.
This is where the CEO’s own DNA can have a major influence. And yet, even if she is not already an innovator, she can still develop innovation skills and habits, and in doing so, set an example for the rest of the company.
Also, leaders can complement their own weakness in this area by infusing innovation to the company’s DNA through a dedicated recruiting process, and the empowerment of innovative managers within the company.
Customers and Suppliers
A company needs to be close to its customers and users; know and understand their problems, challenges, and needs. Observe the “jobs” that they are trying to get done. Ask them questions like “why?”, “why do you do that?”, and “what if?”
Most great ideas are not born in research labs, engineers’ cubicles, or conference rooms. They often come from observing and studying what users are trying to do. How can we do it better, simpler? How can we apply new technologies to solve these problems differently?
Companies need to establish relationships with their customers, suppliers, and partners that are based on trust, respect, and open communication. And listen, really listen to them.
Process and Criteria
There needs to be a simple process that regularly collects, reviews, and selects ideas from all of the above sources.
It needs to be simple for people to submit, share and present their ideas. Also, there needs to be a clear set of criteria by which ideas are reviewed and ranked. People that submit ideas should get prompt feedback and recognition.
Of course, there needs to be a specific budget for funding those ideas that get selected. Further, there is a need to allocate time and budget for conducting multiple experiments around these new ideas.
Such a process, supported by the above culture, will encourage and motivate people throughout the company to create innovative ideas. Even if they do not always become a new product/service or a new business model.
In conclusion, Innovation, much like customer service, cannot be left to one person in the company, not even the CEO. Therefore, to become an innovative company, it needs to be a skill and a habit of everyone in the organization.