Opinion: Build an Innovation-Driven-Culture for Lasting Success, Part One

Photo: Ethan Chazin, President & Founder, The Chazin Group, LLC Photo Credit: Courtesy Ethan Chazin
Ethan Chazin, President & Founder, The Chazin Group, LLC | Courtesy Ethan Chazin

 “The success of corporate R&D is on every C-suite agenda.  Yet wide disparities persist in how well innovation investments actually pay off.  As a consequence, R&D is often seen as a black box, where large sums of money go in and innovative products and services only sometimes come out.”  Global Innovation 1000

Innovation is the lifeblood to any organization’s continued success.   It helps overcome the many challenges that organizations face in the form of global competition to rapid changes in technology, changing demographics, an aging population, etc.  China’s rise as THE global innovation powerhouse is forcing other nations to adapt and respond QUICKLY.

Too big to fail is no longer a realistic survival reality.  The PERVASIVENESS of software means technology around us demands constantly assessing how we can be more innovative.  Huge organizations are becoming extinct at a faster rate of attrition than ever before.   Here’s the proof.  In 1958, the average life span of an S&P 500 company was 58 years.  Today it’s less than 18 years.

We need to infuse our organizations with a creative spirit to achieve innovation.

So…What is “Creativity” anyway? Why bother pursuing it for your organization?  Creativity means looking at the same information as everyone else, and seeing something different.  Okay, but what is ‘Innovation’ and why is THAT a mission-critical imperative for your future success?  Innovation entails turning creative ideas into action.  It’s all about what’s NEW, BETTER, NEXT.  Got it. So, why is innovation so critical to your organization’s very survival?

Following are actionable steps that you can take NOW, to foster a culture of innovation in your organization:

  • Have a mission that truly matters, that inspires others by making emotional connections with them.  You need to plan…and PLAN TO FAIL.  Innovative organizations don’t just happen. You need to plan for it.  It is crucial that you understand that innovation entails trial and error.
  • Therefore, you need to not only to be willing to FAIL, but to see failure as exploration and success, NOT as failure.   This is often difficult to accomplish when your organization invests significant time, effort, and resources you would normally invest in current operations, products, and services.  Thus the critical imperative of seeing continual innovation as an ongoing pursuit and not a destination to reach.
  • Create an IDEAS program for your organization and include everyone.  Set aside a cross-functional team to meet on a recurring regular basis to review all ideas that you actively solicit from all of your people, and decide which ideas will be funded based on their ability to help you achieve your short and long-term business objectives.

You MUST have passion!

The positive is that MANY organizations have already embraced innovation, and have set the lead for other organizations to serve as proof of what it takes to be GREAT at it.

1. Google’s culture of Creativity entitled “8 Pillars of Innovation” actively promotes/embraces BLUE SKY thinking.  Google allows employees to dedicate 20 percent of their time on innovation, by giving them INNOVATION TIME OFF.  Would your organization consider doing that?  If YES…great, you have a culture of innovation. If NOT…you need to be the Agent of Change to convince senior management to consider implementing this and other best practices to build an Innovation culture.

2. Adobe offers a KICKBOX campaign in which it gives its employees a box filled with creativity tools including a $1,000 prepaid credit card to spend on any new innovative pursuits.

3. An Amazon key principle is “Invent and Simplify.”  They embrace this principle and actively promote it throughout the company.

4. Intuit has a CEO Leadership award that is gives out to executives who help to create start-ups inside the company.

[The author isEthan L. Chazin, MBA, President & Founder, The Chazin Group, LLC. You can reach Ethan at 201.683.3399 or Ethan@TheChazinGroup.com.]

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