5 secrets to nourishing a culture of innovation
Is innovation synonymous with technology? Not anymore. Beyond technology, organizations are now looking at processes, products, services, and human interaction. In fact, the pressure is no longer on our ability to innovate, but on our ability to innovate faster than our competitors.
Yet there’s a difference between those who talk the talk, and those who walk the walk, of innovation.
Often, many companies that call themselves innovative don’t have a formal structure in place to be so. While that may not be an issue in the early days of a startup, as an organization matures, it’s critical to invest in people, processes, and tools to drive innovation forward.
How can we create a culture where innovation flourishes? Here are five ideas to get you started:
Obtain buy-in from executive stakeholders
Innovative ideas benefit an organization only if they’re put into action before the competition beats that company to the punch. Imagine the impact on your speed to market if you have to convince executive stakeholders to provide funding for every innovative solution. Buy-in from the start takes a step out of the process, making resources to support innovation available early.
Have a strategy for generating new ideas
Should an innovation strategy be “top-down” or “bottom-up?” Why not both? It’s important for every employee to know their ideas will be vetted to get a lot of “bottom-up, boots on the ground” ideas from the people who are interacting with your products and customers every day. But it’s equally important to have top-down access to market research, industry trends, emerging technologies, idea accelerators, and incubators. This ensures you remain informed on what could be an innovative solution to a client pain point.
Collaborate across disciplines
Sharing ideas across all functions and business units of your organization multiplies the impact of those ideas. When you have a multifunctional view at the table, employees can take an idea from another part of the business, tweak it, and make it work for their business. The most innovative companies don’t work in silos; they collaborate and connect to create big impact across the organization.
Recognize, reward, and celebrate the best ideas
Inspiring employees to bring their best ideas forward is a key to success. At JLL, we have an annual Da Vinci award to recognize the “best of the best” ideas across our global organization. Participants have the chance to win cash prizes and the opportunity to present their ideas to executives and investment committees, which will provide funding to bring those ideas to life immediately. No matter what shape, color, or size your recognition program takes, it’s important to have one in place so employees are motivated to take their ideas beyond the page of a notebook.
Formalize product development
Inspiring employees to bring their ideas forward is only one step of the process. What happens when everyone agrees an idea is good enough to bring to market? It’s critical to have a formal process in place so employees know how to transform an idea into a solution. A stage-gate process can speed up the process of discovering, designing, testing, and launching good ideas.
It’s important to remember that innovation doesn’t happen by accident. Ideas spark every day, but turning a spark into a flame requires a culture where innovation is ingrained in the fabric of how people work. Inspiring your people to bring their best ideas forward — and giving them the tools to succeed — is key to success in today’s ultra-competitive environment.