Why you don’t need an innovation strategy for growth
The word innovation is featured on the agenda of nearly every business looking to drive value and maximise growth. Yet, the vast majority fail to replicate the success stories that the likes of BMW and Facebook boast. From big business to the latest round of wanna-be disruptors, everyone is trying to identify the best way to scale up and increase market share. Most believe it starts with a strategy or a product. Most are wrong.
There is much research and insight surrounding proven techniques, approaches and models which can support you with product, process and/or business model innovation. Some of these hold great value, instilling the systems and methodologies that allow co-creation and ideation to flourish; although none will deliver in isolation. Ultimately it is culture, not strategy, that creates change.
“Of all the challenges businesses face, culture is the one true deal breaker. It has the power to stymie invention and discovery at every level.”
Mike Steep, Microsoft.
Have you ever received a great idea from an unmotivated employee?
Innovation may be the core driver of growth, performance, and valuation but it is the individuals and teams who actively share ideas and push the boundaries that produce it. Cultures and environments that support and empower, allowing people to connect vision, insight and experience with entrepreneurial flare, are the ones that allow businesses to disrupt markets.
Innovation is an effect, not a process.
“Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them.Unless you give motivated people something to believe in, something bigger than their job to work toward, they will motivate themselves to find a new job and you’ll be stuck with whoever’s left.”
Simon Sinek, Ted.
Corporations used to believe that the ‘carrot and stick’ approach was the best way to inspire and motivate employees – offering incentives to those who proved worthy, while getting the rest to ‘tow the line’.
Yet, in our hierarchy of needs what we’re paid represents little more than a reference or proof point in our quest for self-fulfilment (note: lower down the hierarchy of needs triangle money is infinitely more critical).
Studies actually show that three elements need to be present in order to enable motivated, driven and highly engaged team members to remain that way – I’ve offered a few suggestions as to how you can support each of them.
Define and capture your vision – a purpose that you believe is attainable, relatable and desirable
- Develop and communicate the beliefs and values surrounding your vision
- Empower each individual within your team by ensuring they can make a positive contribution toward achieving the collective vision
“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first”
- Agree an outcome, define KPIs and allow team members the freedom to identify and navigate a path toward achieving them
- Collaborate, listen first and speak objectively
- Don’t micromanage, try and keep everyone aligned with the vision and the business methodologies without restricting them with too much formal reporting/justification
- Focus on outcomes and cultural fit not hours, effort and personality type
- Ensure reporting and feedback is about support, suggestion and enablement – your vision is collective and will be achieved through a partnership approach
“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do”.
- Synergistic and transferable skills are important within an innovative team, but take time to ensure each individual within the team has their area of expertise where they can act and grow as a mentor and role model
- Get your people out the office – either to gain skills through structured learning or to gain knowledge and insight through experiences and interactions (conferences, events, testing, feedback sessions etc)
“The more you know, the more you are empowered to make connections that no one else thought to do… I think that’s the soul of creativity.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Innovation may not be a strategy, but with the right approach, it can become a cultural mindset, unifying people across product, design, sales, marketing and operations in working toward the ultimate outcome of growth, change and commercial success.