Company lifespans are shrinking at a drastic pace. Gains in education, accessibility, and technology have all fueled this revolution in the marketplace. A great product will only survive for a short period. Therefore, innovation conclusions point to the dependence on the ability to continuously create value that has become the greatest predictor of success.
Company sustainability is synonymous with constant reinvention. The cycle of improvement begins with investing in transformative initiatives. Look back at Circuit City and Best Buy, both the top players in electronic retail sales. Acting as a duopoly they fought tooth and nail over market share from one another. They never saw the growth of eCommerce and the hidden giant of Amazon lurking in the shadows. They may still be in business if they would have placed that same effort into research.
True innovation is disrupting the current state. Company sustainability is not derived from product improvement but from new market creation. This forces organizations to be disruptive to their own ecosystem to achieve long term survival. Each company must be bold enough to fund and support a pivot.
Company leadership understands how important innovation is to their long-term viability. However, external pressures continue to force organizations into compromising positions. Hyper efficiencies to do more with less. Outsourcing key skills to cheaper overseas locations. Heavy investments in automation to eliminate human error.
These initiatives are driven by a shareholder and leadership desire for corporate stability. Having the consistency to always find level playing fields. Achieving growth but within the parameters of the current structure. This stability enables predictability, especially with budgets. Budgets can replace the quest for true value and become the entire focus of the organization. That signifies risk adversity and the beginning of the end.
Lastly, leadership stalls the innovation cycle. Like organizations, they understand the value of new, disruptive thinking. However, they fall into the organizational current that values stability and standardization over new and unique. Additionally, managers fall into historical trapping of 200-years of managerial best practices that run counter to inducing innovation. These practices push for control and oversight leaving the manager too busy trying to control everything instead of nurturing peak performance from their teams.
Today’s leaders must be intentional about the culture they build. Start with the environment. It is the house of innovation and sets the team up for success or failure. Develop a work environment and lifestyle that breeds new ideas instead of churning out old ones. Get the team the tools they need to grease the wheels of design. Emphasize team values and beliefs in appreciating people that share unique thoughts. Make innovation part of your team’s ethos.
Following, build processes that create. Creativity is a process, one cannot sit around waiting for good ideas to just happen. Structure events, workshops, and normal workflows that harness the flow of information and allows time for reflection. Lastly, explore external stimuli that affect the team. Some of these stimuli like concentration rooms, walking paths, and informal gameplay stimulates creative thought. While other external stimuli like e-mail, interruptions, and phone calls can all break the creative thought process.
If a solution can be generated by a single individual don’t involve a team. Teams routinely bring down creative outcomes due to social pressures and anxieties. However, if the problem is complex and multiple experts are needed, then focus on the team dynamics. Focus your efforts on building a team culture that trusts one another and can be vulnerable to where they share their thoughts freely. Your goal is to have all team interactions to be a net positive in terms of being able to leverage everyone’s brains.
Lastly, work on who you can be as a leader. Good leadership is getting the team to achieve goals. Don’t forget that innovation is one of those goals. The leader is no longer the master controller but the guide and coordinator. The goal for the modern leader is to get the full effort from their team and to put the team in a position to succeed.
Most people can be a capable manager. It involves planning, organizing, staffing, directing, informing, and controlling. Also, it doesn’t take a remarkable or charismatic person to lead innovation efforts. It just takes intentional actions. Specifically building the culture that works for the team. Unlocking self-awareness of if the actions and behaviors you exhibit induce or restrict innovation. What disruptive innovation truly comes down to is the bravery of the leader. Innovation upsets the apple cart, it changes lives, and it is a scary proposition. However, you only get one shot at life and fortune favors the bold.
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