Innovation is a powerful tool in any business. However, many businesses fail to identify and leverage creative ideas that can grow the company.
Education is an important step in developing an innovation strategy for any company. This innovation education is necessary at all levels in the organizational chart. Creative thinking is not just for the research department or for a select few people within the company. Everyone should be involved with innovative thinking to help grow the company. This means that the company leaders and managers must also understand the importance of creative ideas to encourage others in the company to develop an innovation culture.
Unfortunately, many business leaders do not fully leverage innovation in their companies for a variety of reasons. These reasons include:
- Continuing to do things "the same old way" – Many business leaders are afraid of change. They stick with products and policies that are already in place instead of taking a risk with an innovative idea.
- Focusing on short-term results – Business leaders are often focused on the immediate results – looking for activities or solutions that will benefit the results of the current quarter. Innovations often require a longer-term outlook – beyond the current quarter.
- Not measured – Many companies do not measure innovative activities by employees, and these activities are not part of an employee's performance evaluation. Thus, neither the employee nor the managers / company leaders are focused on the results generated by innovative thinking.
- Lack of education – Innovation is not often taught to business leaders. Many people believe innovation is time-consuming, expensive, and boring. But, with a little education and studying some examples, people quickly learn that innovation can be valuable, reliably inexpensive (especially when compared to the potential results), and fun!
A good first step in leveraging innovation in your business is to begin educating everyone in your company about the benefits of innovation. Teach employees at all levels how to identify innovations and how creative ideas can expand the business. Providing specific examples of valuable innovations (in your business or other businesses) helps people better understand the innovation process.
To further encourage innovation and creative thinking, managers and executives must appreciate the value of spending time brainstorming or performing other creative thinking exercises. Even though the results of these activities may not generate revenue in the coming quarter, they can support the long-term growth of the company by identifying new products and new product features. Innovative activities must be encouraged and valued by company management even if the activities can not be measured as easily as meeting project deadlines or sales goals.
CEOs and other executives should set the tone for the company's innovation strategy. Without a company-wide understanding of innovation and support of innovative activities by company leaders, many companies will surely talk about innovation without actually experiencing it.