Five Pillars for Business Innovation

by James on November 11, 2009

Having an IdeaBusiness innovation isn’t accidental. It’s the result of conscious decisions made be leadership to create and foster a culture of innovation.

This requires a certain amount of bravery and a lot of self confidence. Leadership needs to have a mind set for business innovation. This means not focusing on what’s “right,” but rather focusing on learning, on what’s possible. This is essential to foster innovation. Infusing your culture with a mindset that supports innovation frees your staff to identify, develop and monetize market defining ideas.

If it becomes part of your culture, innovation can have an immediate and sustainable impact on your business. But, both small and large scale change takes commitment. There will be lots of starts and stops. Sometimes it will feel like you are pushing Jello up a hill on a warm day. Keep at it. Make innovation your mandate and the returns will come.

Hip Shots

  1. There are a number of factors but the most important is giving staff, especially front-line staff, the freedom to be innovative, the freedom to be in the moment. Pay attention to what they are saying or not saying. Their instincts are a reliable source of ideas and insights. Assign time to brainstorm. Bring people together as a matter of course not just to address specific problems. Reward their efforts materially and emotionally.
  2. Permission to fail is also very important. When something doesn’t work, for leadership with an innovation mind set, it’s an opportunity to learn and improve. Sensible failure should be celebrated and rewarded. Most “over night sensations” are the result of many months, often years, of hard work and missteps.
  3. Invest in tools and practices focused on business innovation. This has a double benefit. It tells your staff that you think innovation is important and it provides them with the resources they need to capture and cultivate ideas. It can be as simple as covering one of the walls in every office with whiteboard.
  4. Budget is another key factor. Have one. Carve off a percentage of revenue and assign it to innovation. Consider this budget a capital expense, money that’s gone as soon as it has been assigned. In other words spend it on innovation don’t use it as an emergency fund if you miss revenue goals one month.
  5. Finally, have patience. I’ve worked with a number of entrepreneurs who have built successful businesses. They will tell you there are days, many days, when the end seems to be getting further away. Then, suddenly they reach a tipping point and the ideas start to sustain themselves.

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