Without a doubt, innovation is the driver of today’s fast-paced, technology-driven and highly competitive business environment. To survive, businesses must innovate to evolve, adapt and anticipate the needs and wants of their consumers.
The dramatic change in the way companies do business due to the pandemic has accelerated conversations about innovation and strategy. Business leaders are looking for new ways to improve customer experience, reduce costs, generate revenue and increase market share. To achieve these goals, many have embraced the concept of innovation. However, their efforts tend to fail or produce undesirable results because they do not include some essential elements of a successful innovation strategy.
5 elements of a successful innovation strategy
Five critical elements are at the core of any successful innovation strategy: innovation culture, leadership buy-in, team member empowerment, reward and recognition, and metrics and KPIs defined. These concepts are imperative to achieving results and maintaining a scalable and sustainable innovation model.
1. Build a culture of innovation
Companies that succeed in innovating have a specific mindset and model for generating and implementing new ideas. Pushing innovation without having a culture to support creative thinking will fail – wasting valuable time, money and resources in the process.
The first step in building an innovative corporate culture is to take the pulse and read precisely where the company stands in terms of innovation. Meetings with management and surveys of your team members will help you assess the level of the existing culture of innovation. From there, you can focus your efforts on how to build or sustain your culture of innovation.
Remember: Transparency plays an important role in engaging all team members in innovation. Constant communication, training and checks at all levels help establish a transparent dialogue about how innovation can create positive change – fueling the culture of innovation.
Related article: Innovation can be taught. And measured
2. Innovation requires leadership buy-in
Leaders need to align with each other and have a common understanding of the principles of innovation. Leader buy-in can come from a passion for customer service, the constant search for faster and easier ways to do business, time spent innovating, or sharing and scaling results. . When leaders don’t believe in the process, their mindset quickly trickles down to the rest of the team, stopping the culture of innovation in its tracks. Remember: it’s not just what you say. It’s the explicit decisions and subtle behaviors that inspire innovation and keep it at the forefront of a company’s culture.
A successful innovation strategy builds leadership buy-in by consistently highlighting the positive results of innovation through the engagement of team members at all levels throughout the innovation process.
3. Team members need tools and resources to innovate
Equip your team members with the right tools and resources to innovate. When you provide everyone in your organization with the structure, process, and tools to connect and share their knowledge, you give everyone permission to innovate. Many of the most innovative and impactful ideas come from those who do the work, day in and day out. Remember: Empowering your team members gives them the power to have a voice and own the innovation process.
Whether it’s independent ideation or collaboration within a group, it helps to strengthen a company’s culture of innovation. Cloud-based innovation platforms also enable companies to increase engagement and collaboration. Innovation platforms are another tool to keep your employees inspired, your ideas organized, and your teams accountable throughout your innovation journey.
Related Article: 4 Surprising Innovation Lessons From COVID-19
4. Reward and recognize innovation at its roots
One of the main reasons companies don’t innovate is that they don’t recognize and reward their employees for their contributions to innovation. When you don’t or never acknowledge those leading the teams rather than those involved in the ideation of an innovative concept, other team members become discouraged and quickly lose the desire to think creatively.
Recognizing the people who contribute to your innovation goals is an essential part of a successful innovation strategy. Remember: Recognition reinforces desired innovative behaviors and fosters a culture of innovation.
Also, realize that everyone has different strengths, so some will be better at different phases of the innovation process than others. Therefore, you need to reward and recognize often at every stage of the innovation process – from ideation to execution. Try a combination of financial incentives such as gift cards or bonuses, paid time off, office parties, company-wide emails, rewards, workspace decorations, or a celebration center and a digital wall of fame. Whatever motivation matches your company culture, be sure to reward and recognize team members for their innovative contributions.
5. Define metrics and KPIs that drive innovation (and support business goals)
As a business leader, defined metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) are essential for tracking your business goals. The same logic applies to innovation. Choose KPIs that relate to your business goals, corporate mindset, and team behaviors.
Be transparent about the metrics and KPIs that support and drive enterprise-wide innovation. Here are some examples of innovation measures and key performance indicators:
- Number of team members trained
- Number of ideas submitted
- Number of ideas executed
- Total revenue generation
- Total Savings
Remember: if you don’t measure it, you won’t reach it.
Related article: Why so many big companies stink of innovation
What is your innovation strategy?
When you look at your company’s approach to innovation, does it include the five elements of a successful innovation strategy? If not, reconsider your approach. In a rapidly changing business environment, harnessing the power of creativity is key to staying competitive. Don’t risk failing and being surrounded by a pool of out-of-reach innovative ideas.
Molly Goins-Cox is the Chief Innovation Officer at Withum. In her role, Molly partners with Withum leaders, senior corporate leadership, and key cross-functional teams to strategize, create, and execute enterprise-wide technology initiatives.