Innovation has become increasingly important as a driver of business success. With the ever-changing landscape of technology and global markets, companies must continually adapt and find new ways to stay ahead of the competition. Driving innovation can help your company gain a competitive advantage, improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, and attract and retain top talent.
In this post, we’ll talk about why innovation is so important and share some ways you can create a culture of innovation within your company.
Why driving innovation matters
Think of some of the most recognizable brands today — Amazon, Uber, and Salesforce, for example. These companies built their brands with innovative ideas that they’ve continued to expand over time.
Driving change and innovation isn’t just an exercise — it has tangible benefits for businesses, such as:
The ability to innovate and adapt quickly is essential to staying ahead of the competition. Driving innovation in your organization can help you develop new products, services, or processes that give you a competitive edge.
For companies in the highly saturated software sector, ongoing innovation is essential for retaining customers. And as the COVID pandemic revealed, companies of all kinds faced tremendous pressure to innovate and rethink their business models, in order to remain competitive.
By constantly innovating and introducing new ways to improve the customer experience, you can satisfy your existing customers and attract new ones — happy customers are a top source of referrals.
If possible, include your customers in this process. Ask them what you can do to improve their experience.
Employee satisfaction and retention
The best and brightest employees want to work for companies that are leaders in their industry. By driving innovation, you can create an environment that attracts and retains top talent. Even better, you can involve your employees in your innovation initiatives, which demonstrates that you care about their opinions and trust their judgment.
10 ways to drive innovation in your organization
Driving innovation in organizations isn’t as difficult as it might sound. Start with these fundamentals, and refine your process over time:
1. Determine a key innovation challenge
One of the first steps to driving innovation is to define a specific challenge or problem that you want your team to address. This can provide a clear focus and help you identify the most promising ideas that have the potential to make a real impact.
2. Form innovation teams
The best ideas come from diverse groups with different viewpoints. So if you’re assembling an innovation team, look beyond leadership and beyond your most outspoken employees.
Within large companies, there might be several goals that require innovation. So long as these goals are not dependent on each other, separate teams can be working on innovative solutions concurrently.
Involve people who may not know how to achieve a specific goal, but could nevertheless offer valuable feedback. For example, if your development team wants to improve an aspect of your software, an employee with no knowledge of development might be the perfect person to test the new feature.
3. Ensure you have the tools to support innovation
Innovation requires a creative mindset, critical thinking, collaboration, and experimentation. Beyond that, you may need certain tools, such as mind-mapping software, technology for soliciting customer feedback, and methods for conducting A/B testing.
You may need to earmark funds specifically for supporting innovation, which is a cost that should be easily offset by the results.
4. Provide an idea-sharing platform
Another key strategy for driving innovation is to introduce an idea-sharing platform, such as a collaborative innovation tool or forum. This can help you tap into the collective knowledge and creativity of your team, as well as engage and inspire employees to come up with new ideas.
For remote teams that don’t have the luxury of brainstorming in person, this type of platform is essential. Look for collaboration features like real-time chat, or markup tools, if your team is working on innovative content.
5. Define a screening process for ideas
Develop a process for vetting ideas, and explain it to your employees. Tell them who will be evaluating ideas, and what metrics they’re using, and make sure you have a plan for explaining why an idea was rejected or tabled for future consideration.
6. Use collaborative experimentation
Collaborative experimentation can occur internally and/or involve your customers. An example of this is rolling out a new feature for a select number of your loyal customers and asking them to provide feedback, which your internal team then uses to refine the feature.
7. Communicate with employees
In order to drive innovation successfully, it’s important to communicate clearly and regularly with your team about what you are working on, what’s working, and what challenges you may be facing. This can help you build a strong sense of shared ownership and get everyone on board with your innovation efforts.
8. Set an example
The fear of failure is a barrier to innovation. Leadership must make clear that failure is part of the innovation process, and that it’s expected. To truly inspire your employees, share a personal story of failure, what you learned from it, and how it helped you grow.
9. Adopt innovation-friendly policies
Another barrier to innovation is time — or the lack of it. To drive innovation, you have to give employees time to develop ideas. Create policies that let employees block off time to innovate, and consider reinforcing your support for innovation by funding off-site retreats for creative teams.
10. Make recognition part of the process
When a team has developed an innovative idea that meets your business objectives, offer recognition for their efforts. That might take the form of a company-wide announcement, a LinkedIn post, or a blurb on your website.
Join other innovators who are working to solve massive challenges
MassChallenge believes that innovation is the key to solving many of the world’s biggest challenges — from food insecurity to climate change. That’s why we work to connect entrepreneurs, existing businesses, and industry mentors.
We invite industry experts to share their stories, help startups grow, and participate in our business incubator events. Learn more about what we do.